Why Hiring A Bankruptcy Attorney Is Better Than Filing On Your Own
When clients learn that a bankruptcy attorney is going to charge over $2,000 to handle a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the thought of proceeding pro se can be attractive. Filing for bankruptcy pro se means acting on ones own behalf before the bankruptcy court. In other words, filing pro se means that you are representing yourself rather than hiring an attorney to represent you. The main advantage of filing pro se is clear: it costs a lot less than hiring a $2,000 bankruptcy attorney. However, the disadvantages of filing pro se often outweigh the cost advantage in light of the complexity of consumer bankruptcy cases and the likelihood of non-experts making severe mistakes in completing the bankruptcy documents.
How To File Bankruptcy Without An Attorney
First youll need to determine if either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is right for you. This is worth the free consultation all by itself. You want to make sure that youre able to file and that you can protect your assets.
Youll also want to make sure you know if youll pass the Means Test before you file a petition with the bankruptcy court. The proper form for the Means Test calculation can be found on the courts website. Sometimes waiting a month to file a bankruptcy petition can be the difference to passing the Means Test.
Pro Se Only Applies To Individual Filings
As long as you are making an individual filing, you can file for bankruptcy on your own without a lawyer or a law degree yourself. This includes both types of personal bankruptcy filings as well as business filings as long as the business is not a partnership or incorporated entity.
You can NOT represent yourself in a partnership because you cant legally represent someone else without being a licensed attorney. Incorporated businesses cant be represented by the owner, so you must hire an attorney.
Of course, just because you can do something it doesnt mean that you should. Even on the official website for United States Courts it states:
While individuals can file a bankruptcy case without an attorney or pro se, it is extremely difficult to do it successfully.
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Oregon Legal Aid Organizations
If you think that filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon is right for you, but don’t have enough income to pay for a lawyer, you may want to check out what options you have for assistance through legal aid in Oregon. If you can make it work for your schedule, you can visit a bankruptcy clinic offered by the debtor-creditor section of the Oregon State Bar throughout the state. Additionally, the court provides a list of resources for free or low costs legal assistance on their website. Finally, nonprofits such as Legal Aid Services of Oregon may be able to help.
Filing Bankruptcy Pro Se
Making the decision to file bankruptcy is very difficult. It is even more difficult to navigate the entire process without the help of an attorney. Filing bankruptcy pro se can have serious legal and financial consequences. It may be tempting to print the forms and fill them out yourself. However, not understanding the law behind federal bankruptcy forms can be detrimental to your case. Therefore, experienced Bankruptcy Attorney Portia Douglas will help you navigate the complex issues that are involved in every case. Our sole-attorney office will customize a strategy taking your unique situation into account. She will help you decide what assets you can protect, what debts you may discharge, and how you can build a better tomorrow.
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Getting A Lawyer To Help You With Your Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a specialized area of law that is very complex. And the issues are not always apparent or simple. The bankruptcy laws changed in October 2005 to discourage many people from filing for bankruptcy. So the law became more complicated. And there are more situations where a mistake can result in your case getting dismissed. If your case is dismissed, the bankruptcy court often imposes a penalty of 180 days before you can refile, and in this time period a lot can happen. This is why it is so important to have a lawyer advise you and help you with your bankruptcy.
Find a lawyer who can help you work through the issues, alternatives you may have, and consequences of your choices.
- Pick a lawyer with whom you are comfortable, one who will allow you to ask questions and give you responses that you can understand.
- Pick a lawyer who either specializes in bankruptcy or does a large part of his or her practice in the field.
- Ask questions until you understand what your choices are.
- Don’t be afraid to interview a lawyer and leave without hiring him or her.
If you decide to represent yourself in bankruptcy court, read a guide for Filing for Bankruptcy Without an Attorney.
To find a good bankruptcy lawyer:
- Check state bar groups and specialization/certification programs for bankruptcy lawyers in your community.
- Ask other lawyers or tax preparers you know for recommendations.
Discharging Debts In Bankruptcy
A bankruptcy discharge releases a debtor from being personally responsible for certain types of debts. So, after a bankruptcy discharge, the debtor is no longer legally required to pay any debts that are discharged.
The discharge prohibits the creditors of the debtor from collecting on the debts that have been discharged. This means that creditors have to stop all legal action, telephone calls, letters, and other type of contact with the debtor. This prohibition is permanent for the debts that have been discharged by the bankruptcy court.
You cannot discharge all debts in bankruptcy. Some of the most common debts that you cannot get rid of in bankruptcy are debts from child or spousal support, most student loans, most tax debts, wages you owe people who worked for you, damages for personal injury you caused when driving while intoxicated, debts to government agencies for fines or penalties, and more.
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Tip #: #take Your Post
After you file for bankruptcy, your bankruptcy is not complete. You must still finish your post-filing debtor education course.
This course takes about 60 minutes to complete and is similar to the pre-filing credit counseling course. It is a good idea to take it right after you file for bankruptcy so that you do not forget.
Some nonprofits that offer the course file your certificate of completion for you with the court. But it’s usually a good idea to file the certificate with the court yourself to make sure the clerkâs office has received it.
Bankruptcies are often unsuccessful just because the debtor forgot to complete the post-filing course. So, itâs generally a good idea to take the course before your 341 meeting.
The benefit of taking the post-filing course before your 341 meeting is that you can deliver the certificate to the clerkâs office yourself on the same day as your 341 meeting, rather than making a separate trip.
Filers In All Other States And Territories
Certificate of completion for both credit counseling and debtor education are required but before the filers debts can be discharged. Only credit counseling organizations and debtor education course providers that have been approved by the U.S. Trustee Program may issue these certificates for filers in all states and territories except for Alabama and North Carolina. Find an approved or debtor education provider.
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Preparing For Your Appointment
To prepare for your PSAP appointment you should gather any letters, papers or documentation you think are relevant to the questions you are planning to ask the attorney during your appointment. Review those documents before you come to the appointment.
You are not required to bring any documentation to your appointment. However, your 30-minute appointment will be best utilized if you have the information readily available. If possible, please bring all the documents and your bankruptcy case number to the appointment.
Your appointment will be on the 4th Floor of the Thomas F. Eagleton US Courthouse, 111 S. 10th Street, St. Louis, MO 63102. The public entrance to the courthouse is located on the East side of the building at Level 1. There are numerous parking lots in the area with varying costs. There is also a small amount of metered on-street parking. Public transportation is available in St. Louis through Metro Transit or bus. Visitors must have a valid ID and must pass through security screening before being granted entry to the courthouse. The courthouse is fully accessible to people with disabilities.
Please arrive at least 15 minutes before your appointment time to ensure you have enough time to get through security. You should bring paper and a pen or pencil so that you can take notes or write down important points learned during your appointment.
Please remember, the PSAP volunteer cannot complete your paperwork for you or represent you.
Why Hiring A Bankruptcy Attorney Is Probably Better Than Filing On Your Own
Hiring a qualified lawyer guarantees that your bankruptcy filing is done correctly, and you may even save money as a result. The US federal court website published a list of all the ways a bankruptcy lawyer can help you .
Our lawyers at Sasser Law Firm will give you a crucial benefit that you lack: experience. Weve handled thousands of cases for both individuals and businesses.
Since weve done it so many times before, we know what errors cause problems and seek to avoid them in our clients filings. Weve undertaken Chapter 7, 11, and 13 cases, so well be able to tell which bankruptcy is the right one for you.
When you file bankruptcy on your own, youll have to read legal jargon and apply it to your situation. That can be difficult, but years of practice have made us efficient and our goal is to advise you quickly.
You may have pressing financial obligations that you need to resolve quickly, like an impending foreclosure. We can figure out if theres a way to avoid the most serious consequences and maintain your life at a sustainable level. We know it is unpleasant to file bankruptcy, so well do our best to be the steady expert you need in this difficult time.
Finally, we may tell you that bankruptcy isnt your best bet. Our goal is to give you the best possible advice and help you resolve your debt issues in the best way possible If you should wait to file or avoid bankruptcy, well tell you that.
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More About Online Bankruptcy
If bankruptcy is in your future, there are tools online to help you find your way through the maze.
However, it is important to note that while the forms can be downloaded online and there is plenty of help online, the actual filing of the forms, in almost all cases, must be done in person at bankruptcy court.
There is one exception: If an individual is what is called ECF Certified.
ECF stands for Electronic Case Files, and is a way documents are filed online with courts. However, the average person must take classes and be ECF certified and approved by the court to file that way.
Attorneys are ECF certified the average consumer is not. For most of us, that means finding the location of your bankruptcy court and taking the documents there to file.
In the event that you the consumer need to turn to bankruptcy to solve debt issues and it should always be an option of last resort you can file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Yes, you can go through the paperwork and court process yourself, without an attorney.
But a strong word of warning: Its tricky. Another word of warning: Because its tricky, it behooves you to be careful and precise. A final word of warning: If youre nervous about being careful and precise, its wise to consult with an attorney.
But a great deal of the paperwork and educational requirements can be done online with help from a bankruptcy attorney or a non-attorney bankruptcy petition preparer.
Benefits Of Working With A Bankruptcy Attorney
To ensure the best chances of securing your financial future and managing or resolving your debt, a Baltimore bankruptcy attorney from Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC can help. When you work with us, well advise you on if bankruptcy is right for you, under which chapter to file, whether all of your debts can be discharged, potential tax consequences, and whether you are not youll be able to keep your home, car, or other property.
Prior to filing, youll want to understand what all of your options are. If bankruptcy is the route you choose, there is a lot of preparation involved and well need to collect detailed information on your debts, income, assets, and property.
Well also be sure to explain the applicable bankruptcy laws and procedures to you, so you understand whats happening every step of the process. This includes helping you complete and file all the necessary paperwork, so you can move forward with liquidating your assets or reorganizing your debt.
Once the bankruptcy process is over, we can provide guidance and suggestions for rebuilding your credit and setting you up for financial success.
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Petition And Plan Content
The first hurdle for a pro se debtor is the prepara- tion of a complicated series of paperwork. Most pro se debtors likely have had little interaction with the legal system, and they prepare the petition with the advice of well-intentioned friends and family members, and, of course, the internet. Even in situations where the debtor is able to complete the majority of the paperwork, the debtor will misunderstand key areas and, and therefore, incorrectly complete the paperwork.
For example, a debtor will improperly fill out Schedule C exemptions. In fact, Schedule C was one of the first identified problem areas in the authors discussions with Trustees, as well as in general observation of 341 meetings and court hearings. Clara Swanson, a Chapter 7 Trustee in the Eastern District of Virginia, informed the authors that pro se filers in Chapter 7 cases often have asset cases, usually due to the debtors failure to properly exempt tax refunds. Without the help of an attorney, pro se debtors often file a bankruptcy without understanding that they can lose assets.
What Is Pro Se Bankruptcy Filing In North Carolina
In North Carolina, or anywhere else in the country, individuals dont have to hire a lawyer in order to declare and file for bankruptcy. A registered entity such as a corporation or LLC would need a lawyer. Individuals can choose pro se.
You are allowed to fill out the appropriate bankruptcy forms on your own. You then file those forms with the court by yourself. And you defend any challenges to your filing yourself.
The government provides the paperwork online for anyone to use for free. Some of the forms are quite straightforward. Youll list your personal details and disclose your financial situation. Many of the forms, however, are much more intricate.
To maximize the relief available, it may require knowledge of the United States Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, the local rules of the District the case is being filed in, precedential caselaw, and North Carolina statutes.
That seems simple enough. Youve probably filled out plenty of government forms, from your taxes to the census to a voter registration card. Once you look at the full extent of the digital files youll need to download, answer accurately, and submit correctly, you may reconsider.
You should think carefully before you file bankruptcy without a lawyer. Namely, there are numerous risks to pro se bankruptcy filing and many advantages to hiring a bankruptcy attorney.
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Obtain Your Credit Reports And Complete Credit Counseling
The next step is to obtain from all three credit bureaus. You’ll need all three reports because creditors don’t typically report to every bureau. If you fail to report a debt, it won’t be discharged in bankruptcy.
Next, you’ll have to complete a . The U.S. Trustee Program has a list of approved credit education agencies on its site.
A Story From My Practice In Rome Georgia
Today at the 341 Meeting of Creditors in Rome Georgia, I decided to stick around watch a pro se hearing. It is usually educated cheap people who try file bankruptcy without an attorney. Before this hearing started, I wondered to myself how this case would blow up. Then, the questioning began.
The trouble for this pro se case began when the chapter 7 trustee asked, do you have items for sale on craigslist?Yes. replied the pro se debtor.
Why didnt you list them in your bankruptcy petition? replied the trustee.
Because they really dont belong to me. replied pro se debtor.
Do you have a paypal account? asked the trustee. Yes. replied the pro se debtor. How much money is this account right now.Four thousand dollars but its not really mine. Its my boyfriends money replied the pro se debtor. Whose name is on the account? the trustee asked. Only mine replied the debtor.
This pro se debtor thought she was saving money by filing the case by herself. Now, she is going to lose $4,000 because she didnt realize that the chapter 7 trustee can go after your Pay Pal account.
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Increased Oversight By The Court
The filer will be working mainly with the bankruptcy trustee, and when an individual is filing a matter unrepresented, it should be expected that the trustee will take a special interest in the case to make sure everything is listed properly. The trustee may come back to the filer and ask for additional documents or financial information, and the meeting of creditors may take longer than it would for someone who is represented by an attorney. That extra oversight can be stressful for any individual, but it is necessary because the court is charged with ensuring that everything is complete and 100 percent accurate. Having an attorney by your side can be a huge lifesaver and something that is well worth the investment in the long run, to ensure that everything goes smoothly with little to no roadblocks along the way.
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