Filing Without An Attorney
Individuals can file bankruptcy without an attorney, which is called filing pro se. However, seeking the advice of a qualified attorney is strongly recommended because bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal outcomes.
Filing personal bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 takes careful preparation and understanding of legal issues. Misunderstandings of the law or making mistakes in the process can affect your rights. Court employees and bankruptcy judges are prohibited by law from offering legal advice.
The following is a list of ways your lawyer can help you with your case.
- Advise you on whether to file a bankruptcy petition.
- Advise you under which chapter to file.
- Advise you on whether your debts can be discharged.
- Advise you on whether or not you will be able to keep your home, car, or other property after you file.
- Advise you of the tax consequences of filing.
- Advise you on whether you should continue to pay creditors.
- Explain bankruptcy law and procedures to you.
- Help you complete and file forms.
- Assist you with most aspects of your bankruptcy case.
Bankruptcy Forms are available to the public free of charge.
- Use the forms that are numbered in the 100 series to file bankruptcy for individuals or married couples.
- Use the forms that are numbered in the 200 series if you are preparing a bankruptcy on behalf of a nonindividual, such as a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company .
- Sole proprietors must use the forms that are numbered in the 100 series.
How Hard Is It To File For Bankruptcy On Your Own
You will at least need an understanding of the legal issues before filing the bankruptcy petition. How hard a case will be will also depend on other factors including :
- The type of bankruptcy
- How complicated your case is
- Your current financial situation
- Whether you have other obligations like student loans, car loans, child support, and alimony
Even though your case is relatively uncomplicated, a bankruptcy case requires you to fill out extensive paperwork and have a good knowledge of the Bankruptcy Code. Thus, it may be in your best interest to at least have an initial consultation with an attorney to make sure you are on the right course.
Here Are Some Of The Most Common Difficulties Weve Observed When Filing Bankruptcy Without A Lawyer:
- Choosing the wrong kind of bankruptcy. Individuals can choose between Chapter 7, Chapter 13, Chapter 11, and Chapter 12 bankruptcy. Businesses that are registered entities can file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 11. If you choose the wrong kind, your creditors may be able to confiscate property that you would have been able to keep if you had made a better choice.
- Making an error in claiming your exemptions. You can exempt certain kinds of property from liquidation, but you have to list them correctly. If you dont, the asset is subject to liquidation.
- Defending yourself in court. Parties to the case such as creditors, the trustee, and the Bankruptcy Administrator can seek dismissal of the case or oppose discharge or oppose dischargability of a particular debt. This requires a hearing before the federal bankruptcy judge. Representing yourself in front of the bankruptcy judge may be challenging and stressful.
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Can A Person Be Sued If They File Bankruptcy
No one wants to be sued, to say the least. Fortunately, filing for bankruptcy can stop some legal actions in their tracks, including a common typethe civil debt collection action. Other legal matters, however, such as a criminal or child support action, will continue to proceed even after filing a bankruptcy case.
When Can I File Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Again
The waiting period to refile a Chapter 13 is less than it is to refile a Chapter 7. If you previously obtained a discharge of debt in Chapter 13, you only need to wait two years to refile. On the other hand, if your previous case was a Chapter 7, you will need to wait four years. The 4-year waiting period begins on the commencing date of the last case. Filing a Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 is commonly referred to as Chapter 20.
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What Types Of Property Can I Keep If I File Bankruptcy
Each individual who files a bankruptcy is entitled to keep any property that qualifies for an exemption under either federal or Illinois law. For some types of property, such as family pictures, necessary wearing apparel, worker compensation benefits, qualified retirement plans, IRAs, and life insurance, the value and amount of property an individual can claim as exempt is unlimited. In other cases, however, the equity an individual can claim as exempt is limited by a fixed dollar amount. Common examples of such exemptions include:
- Your personal residence
- Compensation for personal injury claims
- Motor vehicle
- Tools or books used in your occupation .
Illinois law also gives each individual the right to exempt up to $4,000 in equity for any other personal property, including cash or money in the bank. If a husband and wife file jointly for bankruptcy, each spouse is entitled to claim these exemptions as well.
Filing Bankruptcy Without A Lawyer In Florida
One of the most frequently asked questions in my practice is In Florida, can I consider filing bankruptcy without a lawyer? Honestly, yes you can file without an lawyer, and it doesnt matter what chapter you file. Chapter 7, 11, 12, 13 it makes no difference. You can absolutely Home Depot that if you think you have the chops.
But heres why you shouldnt.
Forms, Forms, Everywhere a Form
Getting all your information filled in and submitted correctly is vital to having a successful bankruptcy. If you are going to file by yourself, you have to fill out the paperwork you are submitting perfectly. Theres no room for error, and if you omit something you can amend your filing, but it wont look good to the trustee or the courts. A bankruptcy filing is a sworn statement, and you are attesting by filing that paperwork that everything in there is true and accurate theres very little room for a Whoops!
The Right Bankruptcy Filing
Additionally, there are qualifications for certain types of bankruptcies, and I am not talking about business or personal. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy for individuals comes with a means test. If you dont meet the criteria, you filing may be converted into a Chapter 13. Thats much more complicated and drawn out than a Chapter 7, and you will have to pay back some of your debts. Even filing for a simple Chapter 7 is more complicated than it looks at the starting line.
Stupid Creditor Tricks
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Do You Have An Unusual Or Tricky Ownership Interest
Sometimes people own property they aren’t aware ofand if you don’t know how to exempt it, you could lose it. If one of the following situations applies, you probably won’t want to file without consulting a lawyer first:
- you have a claim or lawsuit against someone
- you haven’t received your tax refund yet
- you might receive an inheritance soon, or
- you’re an independent contractor or have an ownership interest in a business.
People with interests in a business should learn about small businesses in bankruptcy.
Is There More Than One Kind Of Bankruptcy
Yes. For individuals, there are two main types of bankruptcies that can be filed: Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 cases are also referred to as “liquidation” cases, while Chapter 13 cases are commonly referred to as “debt adjustment” or “wage earner” cases. Individuals may also be eligible for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows the debtor to propose a plan for reorganization to pay creditors overtime, but Chapter 11 is normally used to reorganize a business. Farmers and fisherman can also file a separate type of bankruptcy available only to farmers under Chapter 12. The word “Chapter” is simply a reference to a chapter number in the Bankruptcy Code.
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Take Bankruptcy Course 2
After filing your bankruptcy forms, you will need to complete a Debtor Education Course from an approved credit counseling agency. It can be completed online or by phone and typically takes at least 2 hours and costs between $10 – $50, unless youâre eligible for a waiver.
The purpose of the course is to educate you on making smart financial decisions going forward but does not provide legal advice about the bankruptcy process. Youâll learn how to prepare a budget and avoid incurring debt with high interest rates.
Youâre not eligible to receive your bankruptcy discharge and obtain a fresh start if you donât complete the course and file your certificate of completion from the credit counseling agency with the court.
Consulta A 5 Star Bankruptcy Attorney In Tampa With Free Consultations
We invite you to contact Florida Law Advisers, P.A. to schedule a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney at our firm. We will take the time to review your financial situation to see if bankruptcy is the best option to help you get out of debt. At Florida Law Advisers, P.A., we understand that filing for bankruptcy can be a very confusing and intimidating process. That is why we work so hard to make the process as easy as possible for our clients.
Our Tampa bankruptcy attorneys have years of experience helping people solve their financial problems and obtain a fresh start. Regardless, whether you need help with Chapter 13, Chapter 7, or other forms of debt relief, our professional legal team can help. Call 800 990 7763 to speak with a bankruptcy attorney at our firm today.
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Can A Lawsuit Be Stopped By Filing For Bankruptcy
A person involved in any lawsuit can ask the bankruptcy court to allow the matter to proceed. The court will probably grant the motion if doing so wont affect the bankruptcy case, and the moving party will suffer harm otherwise. The request, which can be made by filing a motion to lift the automatic stay, commonly occurs when:
Community Property In A Bankruptcy Case
Even though Ellen doesn’t file bankruptcy, all the community propertyincluding her interest in the communitybecomes a part of the bankruptcy estate.
Because they’re in a community property state, community property that is not exempt could be seized by a trustee and sold to benefit Mark’s creditors. If Ellen chooses to file bankruptcy also, depending on the state, she can apply her own set of exemptions .
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Get Our Top Investigations
BK Billing launched in 2016 to manage the two-part agreements for lawyers, usually with clients paying $0 up front. The company helps attorneys craft what they say are legally defensible client agreements and processes the payments.
So far, the company has worked with a few hundred attorneys in more than 40 states, said David Stidham, the CEO. But because few judges have decided whether such arrangements are legal, there is wide uncertainty about the BK Billing model. Its so wild west right now, he said.
Sean Mawhinney, the companys president, said he used the two-part Chapter 7 arrangement when he practiced as a bankruptcy attorney in Utah, where BK Billing is based. Offering Chapter 7 for $0 down made a huge difference for clients, he said, especially those who were having their wages garnished.
If they can stop the bleeding and get their case filed quickly, then they can make a reasonable payment to the attorney, he said.
But, of course, BK Billing is a business, and its services come with a cost that can cause problems of its own. To reduce the risk of clients defaulting, BK Billing pays attorneys up front and charges a 25 percent fee. So, if an attorney normally charges $1,000, BK Billing will pay the attorney $750 and then collect $1,000 from the debtor over the following year.
It was a way for us to expand the volume of people we can help without a lot of resources on our end, said McGarrity.
When You’ll Need A Bankruptcy Attorney
It’s usually best for any bankruptcy filer to hire an attorney. That said, as discussed above, individuals can represent themselves in the right circumstances. It just depends on the case and the comfort level of the person.
You’re Filing for Chapter 13
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a powerful financial tool that can allow you to:
- catch up on your missed mortgage or car loan payments
- eliminate unsecured junior liens from your home through lien stripping, or
- reduce the principal balance or interest rate on your car loan with a cramdown.
But Chapter 13 bankruptcy is considerably more complicated and labor-intensive than Chapter 7. If you want the court to confirm your Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must propose a feasible repayment plan, which is challenging to do without legal knowledge and the software used by bankruptcy lawyers.
Further, if you wish to pay less on your house or car by stripping a second mortgage or cramming down a car loan, you’ll need to file a motion or adversary proceeding with the court, which also isn’t an easy task.
Learn more in Releasing Liens in Bankruptcy: Lien Avoidance.
You’re Filing a Complicated Chapter 7
Of course, if you don’t believe you can navigate the bankruptcy process, or if you aren’t comfortable with it, it’s probably best to hire a bankruptcy lawyer.
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How Does Bankruptcy Affect Your Spouse
Assuming you file for bankruptcy without your spouse, after review by the trustee, and after either liquidation of non-exempt assets or partial repayment over three to five years , your debts are discharged. This means that bankruptcy eliminates your personal liability for debts as an individual.
However, your individual bankruptcy doesnt wipe out your spouses obligation to pay back his or her own debts or any joint debts you have together, which creditors may pursue against your spouse for the full amount. This is a strong reason to consider a joint bankruptcy filing if the circumstances warrant doing so.
One exception worth noting in Texas, a community property state, is that regarding debts you owe jointly with your spouse, creditors can only go after your spouses separate property after your bankruptcy. Since almost all property your spouse acquires during the marriage, including income, is community property, your spouse essentially will receive the benefit of your discharge as well for your joint debts. This is commonly referred to as a phantom discharge.
Filing The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition Yourself
When you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition yourself, you will need to either mail the petition to the Court or personally deliver it to the Court. The court offices are now open daily to receive bankruptcy filings. You will pay the court fees when you file.
While attorneys are required to file bankruptcy petitions electronically when you file your bankruptcy yourself, you are permitted to file it in paper format on official bankruptcy forms. You should call the Court to ask how many copies to bring with you.
When you file a bankruptcy petition yourself, the court fees are the same as that charged when an attorney files a case for you. The Chapter 7 petition fee is $338 unless you qualify for and apply to have the fee waived. Information about obtaining a waiver of the filing fee can be found here Waiver of Filing Fee. Again, it is ill advised to use a bankruptcy petition preparer to help you with this debt relief project.
Attend a Meeting of Creditors with a Bankruptcy Trustee
After you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, the Court will see that a bankruptcy trustee appointed to your case will oversee your case and your creditors will be notified of your bankruptcy filing. You are required to send a copy of your statement of intent if you have secured debts to the creditors yourself. The Court will not send this document for you. The trustee will ask you about this at your meeting of creditors.
Documents Required to be Provided to the Trustee
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Is A Lawyer Required For Bankruptcy Or Debt Settlement
Debt settlement can usually be handled without an attorney because a court filing is not required. While you can enlist the help of an attorney, you can work directly with your creditors if you wish. There are also third-party debt settlement companies who can negotiate with creditors on your behalf. Keep in mind, you cannot force the creditor into a debt settlement, even if you hire a lawyer.
While it is not required to hire an attorney, it can significantly improve your chances of success. A 2014 study found that only 48.2% of all bankruptcy cases without an attorney received a discharge of debt. Conversely, 82.1% of borrowers who hired a lawyer received a discharge of debt.
There are many reasons why you should hire a bankruptcy lawyer to help you eliminate your debts. But not all bankruptcy attorneys are created equal. Careful consideration should be taken to ensure you retain the right lawyer for your case. Before you hire an attorney, ask the lawyer about their experience and qualifications. You should also do an internet search and research their reviews from previous clients.
How To Find A Good Bankruptcy Attorney
When seeking legal representation in bankruptcy, you’ll want to look for an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, not a general practitioner. Not only does bankruptcy require understanding how many principles interrelate, making a mistake can be costly. Most lawyers won’t accept a bankruptcy matter unless they practice bankruptcy law regularly.
Here are some suggestions for finding the best bankruptcy lawyer for your job.
Knowing someone who had a good experience with a bankruptcy lawyer is often your best source. Call that lawyer first. Your lawyer might know a good bankruptcy lawyer, as well. Or, if a family member or a friend used a lawyer in a nonbankruptcy matter, ask that lawyer if they would recommend a bankruptcy attorney.
Group Legal Plans
If you’re a member of a plan that provides free or low-cost legal assistance and the plan covers bankruptcies, make that your first stop in looking for a lawyer.
Most county bar associations will give you the names of bankruptcy attorneys who practice in your area. Keep in mind that bar associations don’t screen the lawyers. It’s up to you to check out the credentials and experience of the person to whom the bar association refers you.
Many law schools sponsor legal clinics and provide free legal advice to consumers. Some legal clinics have the same income requirements as Legal Aid others offer free services to low- and moderate-income people.
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