Can I file bankruptcy without an attorney?
Yes – the United States bankruptcy law allows you to file for bankruptcy without an attorney.
This is called a Pro Se bankruptcy, and means that you represent yourself in court.
Why do people choose to file for bankruptcy without an attorney?
People often choose to file Pro Se bankruptcy to save money on attorney’s fees.
However, you must still pay:
- The court’s filing fee, which is currently $335
- The credit counseling and financial management courses
Whilst you’re undoubtedly saving money on attorney’s fees, is it a good idea?
SHOULD YOU FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY?
It is possible to file for bankruptcy without an attorney, but is it wise?
- Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should
Law is a knowledge service; lawyers do things for clients which clients do not know how to do themselves.
People often hire professionals for many knowledge-based services.
- You go to a mechanic to figure out why your car is making a funny sound and fix it
- You go to a doctor to figure out why your stomach hurts and fix it
- You go to a plumber to figure out why your pipe is leaking and fix it
Bankruptcy lawyers figure out how you got into debt and fix it.
In fact, filing for bankruptcy may be one of the worst services for do-it-yourself for the following six reasons:
1. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW
Bankruptcy law is very complicated. Just like many other areas of the law.
If you thought that the legal aspects of your:
- Rent agreement
- Employee contract
- Website terms and conditions
Were confusing, imagine what filing for bankruptcy is like?
Filing a successful bankruptcy requires much more than filling out some forms and submitting them to the bankruptcy court.
You must figure out many things.
Do you know:
- Whether Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is right for you?
- What property you own?
- What debts you have?
- What set of exemptions to use?
- Whether your property is exempt under those exemptions?
It is very common for me to discover that a potential client owns something that they didn’t think they owned.
Do you know where to start with things like:
- Bank accounts?
- Stocks and shares?
- Businesses interests?
- Life insurance policies?
Do you know:
- How to value your furniture?
- Whether to list the whole value of your car?
- Whether to list your clothes?
- Whether to list your household appliances and entertainment equipment?
- What to do about your 401k?
- What about the income you make from selling unwanted items on an auction website?
I know what to look for, so if I find it first, I can fix it before filing your case.
If the trustee finds it first, then you are likely to lose your asset.
Read that again:
- If the trustee finds it first, then you are likely to lose your asset
You cannot undo a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy once it is filed.
– Reckon your legal skills and knowledge are as good as a bankruptcy attorney’s?
2. TRACKING AND DEADLINES
- Even in an uncomplicated bankruptcy case there are dozens of documents to complete and file in addition to the petition
Not only does a Pro Se filer have trouble determining how to fill out the forms, they must figure out which forms are necessary, and when they must all be filed.
Getting this wrong can have dire consequences, as you can only begin to imagine.
However, an experienced Minnesota bankruptcy attorney already knows all of this, and has systems and staff already in place to track all of this and make sure your bankruptcy filing goes without a hitch.
– Are you willing to risk it?
3. THERE IS AN EXPERIENCED LAWYER WORKING AGAINST YOU
When you file your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, a bankruptcy trustee is appointed to either sell your property to creditors, or to maximize your monthly payment in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
This person is called the trustee.
It is the trustee’s job to find any property that isn’t exempt and sell that property for the benefit of creditors.
Missing even one asset can cost much more than hiring an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
In certain circumstances the trustee can even go after your:
- Business partners
– Are you as experienced and qualified as a bankruptcy trustee?
4. YOU MIGHT HARM FAMILY AND FRIENDS
When you file bankruptcy, the trustee has the right to avoid certain transfers of property.
This means the trustee:
- Can get back any money that you have used to help out friends or family
- May also be able to get back property that you have sold
- Can use these powers for up to 6 years before the day you file your bankruptcy
– Still think it’s a good idea?
5. MANY PRO SE CASES FAIL
- Lots of people who file for bankruptcy without an attorney fail
- They do not get their discharge, and even worse they may not be eligible to file for bankruptcy again
- Just 48% of people who filed for bankruptcy in California without an attorney got their discharge
- In addition, 27% of pro se cases were dismissed, without the person getting the discharge they wanted
This means that over half of all people in California who filed without an attorney didn’t get a discharge.
In 2014, my firm filed 1,014 Chapter 7 bankruptcies.
- 1,012 of those people got their discharge
- The two that didn’t both failed to complete their financial management course, and so didn’t get their discharge
My firm has a 99.91% success rate with Chapter 7 Bankruptcy discharges.
– Are you that confident you can do better?
6. AVOID THE STRESS
If you factor in the value of your time, it is much cheaper to hire an attorney to file your bankruptcy than to learn how to do it yourself.
And you’ll get a better result too.
As an attorney, I stand behind all of my work.
It is my responsibility to make sure that your case is successful.
If there is a problem with the case, I am the one who stays up at night working on solutions.
I already know the problems that can arise, and will have them fixed for you before we even file your case.
You don’t need to spend endless hours trying to figure out things like:
- Whether the land around your house qualifies under the Minnesota Homestead exemption
- How to list your LLC on Schedule B
I already know.
– Do you?
If you’re not confident about things like:
- Working on your car
- Operating on your children
- Fixing your plumbing
And leave these sorts of things to an expert, why is filing your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy any different?
Why do you think you stand as good a chance of getting your bankruptcy discharge as a bankruptcy attorney?
If you’re interested in estimating whether you qualify for a Chapter 7, feel free to to use the calculator below!
Call us at 612.824.4357 now and tell us what you need us to do for you.