Going forward with bankruptcy without an attorney is called pro se bankruptcy. To hire a lawyer or not to hire one, decisions, decisions.
Pro se is a word taken from a Latin word meaning oneself. If this is the option you are considering one thing is sure, as anything you have not done before, it requires research and a considerable amount of work.
For me personally I look at it as the same as the end of the year taxes. I don't mean individual taxes that can be done with the short form. I'm talking business style, many forms and info to collect and correlate into forms that others will be reviewing.
I usually clear a few days to get into activity such as this and pro se bankruptcy done on your own should be approached the same way.
Only you will be adding much research to the to do list!
I am an avid do it your-selfer in many areas of life, but there are some areas that I consider the use of a professional to be extremely valuable. One of these examples is car repair. For many years I attempted many of my cars repairs on my own.
BUT REALLY it took all day and I just would rather spend my time off doing something pleasurable. Paying someone who can do the work in a quarter of the time it would take me is the better choice.
The other valuable aspect to using a professional is that this is all they do. Experience is a valuable resource!
They have seen every situation and the knowledge of how to proceed comes easily. With a seasoned professional you should go through the process of bankruptcy with ease and as little to no problems possible.
Yet on the other side, you still may not be counseled in the way that you would like or best appreciate.
Someone in the business of bankruptcy is not necessarily going to counsel you on alternatives.
They may not make sure you know of the long term effects, though I believe that is what the pre-filing credit counseling course is supposed to do.
And there are instances of things that can go on that they can not tell you of the full scope as it puts them in a possible liability area.
So even with an attorney it is a good idea to do research and ask others what they have been through.
There are many resources for the individual seeking bankruptcy with out legal help.
The US Courts website is a good place to start. There it discusses the pro se bankruptcy but describes it as a difficult process not easily done in a successful manner.
They strongly recommend the use of an attorney YET remember the individuals involved in the courts are many time attorneys themselves or were formerly. Its not an impossible process, just may not be for everyone.
This page also lists some precautions in pro se bankruptcy and why an attorney might be desirable. One is the requirement of receiving the pre-file credit counseling course. This must be done by an approved agency and a certificate of completion must be submitted with your voluntary petition papers.
If this is not done your bankruptcy can be dismissed. So research is a must. The US Trustee Program website (the trustees that are in charge of oversight on all bankruptcies) they have an approved credit counsel agency page to search for the start of your pro se bankruptcy.
The other course you are required to take, and again, can get your pro se bankruptcy dismissed if not done, is the personal financial management instruction course or the Debtor education.
It is to be accompanied by a certificate of completion and must be done at an approved debtor course agency.
Both of these courses can easily be done online.
Then there's the Means Test which determines whether you can file a chapter 7 (liquidation) or move over to the chapter 13 repayment plan.
Another caution, the US Courts website mentions, is that in the pro se bankruptcy or any bankruptcy, you will be listing debts that will be covered in the bankruptcy. If you miss any, the discharge will not cover them.
In my own bankruptcy, a bill that I had no idea could be covered was a utility. It had a requirement of having to be over $450.00 to be discharged. This may be different for each state, but something that should be considered and looked into.
The US Courts has a bankruptcy resource page that is great for acquiring all kinds of information needed in your pro se bankruptcy.
Take the time to read the rules of bankruptcy procedures on that page. You can save a copy to your desktop if needed.
Another read that is suggested is the US bankruptcy code from the Cornell University Law School.
The Official Forms needed to file and proceed with a pro se bankruptcy can be found at the US Courts website.
Another piece of advise found on the website of the US Courts is if you cannot afford to hire an attorney in many areas there are services that can line you up with free legal help.
The website suggests contacting your local bar association which is one good resource. There are links on the bottom of the pages on the US Courts website. The bankruptcy resource page link above is one.
Many times your local Community Action Counsel or your Attorney General is another agency which will help you find this service.
Bankruptcy is not the only service of legal help provided with some of these agencies. Foreclosure, eviction and family legal services are many times on the menu of services provided for. So if you qualify, it's a good resource to be aware of.
There is another resource called Non Attorney petition preparers. Many call these individuals "hired typists" as they fill out the forms required in a bankruptcy but cannot advise you of any legal matters.
Usually they ARE trained and schooled on how to fill the forms out and other legal requirements. So if you are one who is helpless in understanding legalese literature (it can be baffling) the services of a non attorney preparer may be for you.
They charge a fraction of what an attorney costs. Yet many times the attorney's fee includes the credit course, the debtor course and filing fees whereas the non attorney is hindered from being able to do this for you.
They have legal requirements in their job as petition preparers to sign documents and give identifying information as they prepare documents so the court recognizes that help was given and by whom.
The non attorney petition preparer must also give the debtor a disclosure about their job limitations and general bankruptcy information.
Even though there are many areas this kind of help is limited in being able to advise you legally, they CAN direct you to information that can answer questions you may have.
Other resources in pro se bankruptcy:
With much research and some possible non legal help, a pro se bankruptcy is possible to achieve!