Bankruptcy, like most legal matters, is an activity and the safest route is with an attorney show you through the task if you wish to succeed.
A good bankruptcy legal professional will give you peace of mind if they provide at least these four things:
An initial consultation – usually free! – to get an overview of your case
Advice on options available, including what type of bankruptcy to file
Completed paperwork necessary for filing bankruptcy
Representation when the case would go to court.
The bankruptcy process starts with a 30-60 minute interview between you and an attorney. When you are married, both of you should attend so that all questions can be answered honestly and accurately. The legal professional will be able to construct your options like the potential to file bankruptcy with out a spouse.
Making guesses about how precisely much you owe and who you owe it to is a bad idea. The lawyer will want some paperwork that backs up your answers about how many assets you have and exactly how much you owe. Don’t hold anything back if you need a genuine and accurate assessment of your circumstances. The advice you’re lawyer gives you is only as effective as the information you provide.
When the lawyer has enough documented evidence to judge your case, he should offer advice about how to proceed. An excellent attorney would not always recommend filing bankruptcy. It’s possible your trouble could be resolved through less drastic means like debt consolidation or maybe even a debt management program.
If your decision is to file bankruptcy, the next matter to anticipate from an legal professional is filing paperwork with the court. Understand that the attorney could there be to protect as many of your assets as he/she can, so chime in on what is most significant to you.
The next step depends on the sort of bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 case, you’ll appear before a Section 7 trustee for a review of your bankruptcy petition. Generally, your lawyer has done all the heavy lifting up front. By providing thorough and complete schedules along with back-up documentation to the trustee, these meetings are usually painless by using an attorney.
In a Chapter 13 case, things can get tricky. Not merely must you meet with the Chapter 13 trustee, but you must present a Section 13 Plan which is accepted by the Court. It is the part where most people struggle when filing without a lawyer. Your Chapter 13 Plan must meet all requirements in the Bankruptcy Code to be “confirmed” by the court.
Do We Need a Bankruptcy Attorney?
Consumers may choose whether to hire an legal professional or represent themselves in filing bankruptcy, but as the numbers cited above from the American Bankruptcy Institute clearly demonstrate, hiring an attorney is an enormous advantage.
The math on this subject is overwhelming:
Only one in 25 consumers using an legal professional is denied a discharge when filing Chapter 7. One out of three who files on their own, do not be given a discharge.
Only about one in 50 consumers filing for themselves in Chapter 13, receives a discharge. Hire a legal professional and your chance for success is better than four-out-of-10.
The reasons are fairly obvious. Bankruptcy is a complex subject. Creditors want to get paid by consumers who say they don’t have the money. Lawyers on both sides are looking to convince judges that their client is right.
If you are not experienced in filing legal documents or arguing your case persuasively, you can lose on ridiculously simple mistakes. A skilled legal professional knows what papers must be filed and what deadlines must be met. A seasoned lawyer knows the judges involved and what arguments they need to make to get the effect.
Not only that, completing the paperwork incorrectly can have disastrous results. It’s totally possible that the Chapter 7 trustee can sell your house because of a paperwork error! Those types of mistakes do not typically occur when using legal counsel, but arise frequently for people filing independently.
That is why hiring an attorney has so much higher a success rate that attempts to file on your own.
Can a Consumer Seriously Consider Doing This Pro Se?
If you have a great deal of time, patience and commitment – not forgetting a comprehension of legal proceedings and language – it is possible to file for bankruptcy pro se (by yourself) and stay successful.
It is not advisable, but it is possible.
Bankruptcy cases are tried in federal courts and that creates a problem right away. To file a case, you need to complete and file your petition in a certain way or it’ll never jump on a judge’s docket.
There is the matter of filing all paperwork necessary for either Chapter 7 or Section 13 bankruptcies. Excluding even one document can cause your bankruptcy case being dismissed.
The U.S. Court System has made the process a little easier by furnishing a fillable PDF form that can be utilized in presenting a Chapter 13 filing. Eventually, they expect to have all necessary forms available online and that presumably will make it easier for pro se filers to manage filing their own case. But even this doesn’t solve every problem. The paperwork being available is only one Issue. You should know how to fill it out correctly.
Then there is the matter of arguing your case before a judge, who knows regulations, procedures and remedies for situations and can choose to dismiss your case whenever if you don’t follow those.
So, yes, you can consider filing bankrupties case yourself, but know that you’re doing this at your own risk.
Signs That You Need a bankruptcy law firm
Financial distress rarely happens overnight or unexpectedly. It’s usually a gradual process with several flare warnings increasing that things are deteriorating.
When warnings are ignored, finances can go up in smoke and it’s too late to do anything about any of it rather than declare bankruptcy.
Some of the evident signs that bankruptcy might maintain your future include:
You only make minimum monthly payments on overdue bills
Your credit cards are maxed out and debt is growing, not shrinking every month
You use credit cards to pay every day expenses like groceries, rent or utilities
You’re paying overdraft fees every month
Collection agencies are calling your home night and day
Creditors are suing you or threatening to sue over your unpaid debts
You don’t qualify for debt-relief programs like debt management or debt consolidation reduction loans
A job loss, divorce or medical setback turns your money upside down
Bankruptcy is not usually the first option for debt resolution, but can be considered a good solution oftentimes. Of course there are some downsides. It can damage your credit for anywhere from 7-10 years and stay an obstacle toward getting security clearances.
However, if you can’t resolve your problems in under five years, bankruptcy is a viable option.