Attorneys are asked this question frequently when it comes to any type of legal matter. “Can I do this without a lawyer?”
Usually this means that the person facing the legal proceeding wants to avoid having to pay legal fees. While that concern is understandable, it is often better in the long run that you hire professional assistance rather than go it alone.
Certain situations do exist where you can handle a legal matter on your own, but unless you have the knowledge and time, it can be hard to do. So, that leads one to ask: can I file for bankruptcy without an attorney?
What is Involved?
Bankruptcy usually does not involve a significant amount of court time or litigation.
It does require understanding the law and legal rules involved and gathering documents needed to file and complete the process.
“Do-it-yourself” kits are available and can help walk you through the process, but not doing the right thing or overlooking an important step can have serious ramifications in the long run including, loss of assets.
Each bankruptcy case comes with a filing fee. The court fee for filing a Chapter 7 petition now is $335; $310 for Chapter 13; and $275 for Chapter 12.
That fee has to be filed regardless of whether you hire an attorney. With respect to legal fees, attorneys can vary on how they are paid.
Normally, a minimum of $1,000 to $2,500 should be expected to be spent as a retainer for an attorney, in addition to court fees.
Keep in mind, however, that you are paying for peace of mind, as well as the experience of a skilled professional to handle all of the legwork associated with bankruptcy.
It is a matter of which is more important to you when it comes to weighing the pros and cons of hiring counsel.
You will need to accumulate a great deal of paperwork when filing for both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
These documents include any records of your debt, including your mortgage statement, credit card statements, student loan statements and medical bills.
You will also need to provide proof of income from all sources, as well as the status of any property associated with secured debt.
You also need to put together a list of all creditors, including their contact information, the account number and balance owed.
You will also need to compile a comprehensive list of your day-to-day expenses of living including your bills, childcare expenses and housing costs.
All of this information will need to be given to the bankruptcy trustee handling the bankruptcy matter.
Many of the court documents required are forms which can be found on your federal court’s online system.
Like tax documents (if you were filing taxes on your own), the forms also include instructions on how to complete them.
Debtors who are filing on their own will also need to complete a credit management course as part of the process and will need to attend the required meeting of creditors before the bankruptcy trustee.
If you feel comfortable navigating all of the above, you can go on your own. If, however, any of this intimidates or confuses you, please contact any attorney for advice before proceeding.
Knowing the Types of Debt and Other Important Information
Certain debts are ranked higher in priority over other debts when it comes to bankruptcy.
You could have secured debt, unsecured debt, and even priority and non-priority unsecured debt. Some debts are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
There are also certain deadlines and notice requirements you have to follow per federal law.
When you hire an attorney, you receive the benefit of that professional’s knowledge, education and experience.
He or she should already be aware of the new updates in bankruptcy law and will know how to properly follow procedure to make sure no mistakes are made.
If you do file a case without an attorney, keep in mind that you will be treated on the same playing field as if you were an attorney. Making a mistake can throw off the goals you are trying to reach in the process.
While, yes, it could save you money in the short-term to avoid hiring an attorney, making a mistake by, for instance, missing a debt, could cost you much more in the end.
Start Your Case without Breaking The Bank
Since you’re reading this post, it’s likely you have some legal questions or issues or perhaps you’re considering retaining an attorney.
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