Filing for bankruptcy is a complicated process, but the court does allow individuals to file on their own without an attorney. This is called pro se filing and is not recommended, even under the simplest of circumstances.
Sometimes, though, people choose to file without professional support to avoid attorneys’ fees (they still need to pay court fees). Unfortunately, even the smallest error can cause your bankruptcy to be denied, in the long run costing you more than if you’d worked with an attorney.
What will you need to handle during your pro se bankruptcy filing?
• Determining if Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best option for you and whether or not you qualify for either or both options
• Completing and filing your paperwork
• Identifying and attending mandatory education courses related to bankruptcy
• Protecting your assets, such as your home or property
• Determining which debts are eligible for discharge
• Protecting your business, if you are a business owner
• Determining the tax consequences of filing
• Attending the Meeting of Creditors (you’ll attend the meeting whether you work with an attorney or not, but when working with one, he or she can attend with you)
• Handling discharge disputes from creditors
• Understanding the repayment plan, if there is one
• Emerging from bankruptcy successfully
If you choose to file for bankruptcy without an attorney, the court expects you to follow the same rules and procedures as anyone else. You’ll need to be familiar with the US Bankruptcy Code and the various federal rules of bankruptcy procedure. You’ll also need to understand any state or local rules that apply.
To find more information on the US Bankruptcy Code, visit UScourts.gov.
Pro se filers might have the option of working with non-attorney petition preparers. These are people (not attorneys) who help you enter information into your bankruptcy forms. They cannot provide legal advice or answer questions that go beyond helping you input information into your forms. Though a petition preparer can help you apply for bankruptcy, their services do not replace those of an attorney and you should not feel as if their guidance is a substitute for experienced legal advice. You are still responsible for all of the requirements listed above.
Investing in a Bankruptcy Attorney
Unfortunately, filing for bankruptcy is a tough decision and knowing you will likely need to pay someone to help you can be downright depressing. After all, you are facing the most difficult financial phase of your life and the last thing you want to do is shell out more money. However, without the support of a bankruptcy attorney, your plan to get yourself back on track financially can backfire. You are better off viewing attorneys’ fees as an investment that will pay off in the long run.
For more information about filing for bankruptcy or to get a better understanding of how much bankruptcy will cost, contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Geller at 813.254.5696 to schedule a consultation.