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 it is possible for a person to handle a legal matter on their own, but unless they 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 to walk someone through 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 someone hires 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 that this fee allows for peace of mind, as well as the experience of a skilled professional to handle all of the legwork associated with bankruptcy.
Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy does not requires an immense amount of paperwork. These documents include any records of debt, including mortgage statements, credit card statements, student loan statements and medical bills.
Proof of income will also need to be provided from all sources, as well as the status of any property associated with secured debt. A list of all creditors will also need to be put together, including their contact information, the account number and balance owed.
A comprehensive list of the debtor's day-to-day expenses of living including 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 the federal court’s online system. Like tax documents, 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. There is 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 one has to follow per federal law. When a debtor hires an attorney, they 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 someone does file a case without an attorney, keep in mind that they will be treated on the same playing field as if they 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 much more in the end.
CONTACT AN ARLINGTON BANKRUPTCY ATTORNEY FOR A FREE CONSULTATION TODAY
An experienced Texas bankruptcy lawyer can help you analyze your financial affairs and give you advice for correctly navigating the bankruptcy process. Call the Law Office of Marilyn D. Garner at 817.381.9292 for a free consultation to discuss how bankruptcy may help you.