You are not required to have an attorney to file bankruptcy and you are permitted to prepare your petition yourself or pay someone to prepare the documents for you. You should be very careful with trying to represent yourself or trusting another non-attorney to prepare your petition. Quite often, those that wish to represent themselves have to attend multiple hearings that are unnecessary had they just filed the petition correctly from the beginning. Recently, I met with two separate individuals who filed their petitions themselves and paid an out-of-state non-attorney bankruptcy preparer to type their petitions. They had to now meet with me to try to save their case and their property due to the numerous mistakes found in their petitions. Also, they needed an attorney to help them communicate with the chapter 7 trustees who were trying to take their property due them not having enough exemptions to protect the amount of property they owned.
Each of these individuals chose a non-bankruptcy preparer to save money but it ultimately ended up costing them more money in the long run since they had to hire an attorney after their bankruptcy filing to fix all the errors in their petitions. This caused the attorney to spend more time on their case than would have been needed had they just hired the attorney from the beginning. The consequences are enormous if errors are made in your petition, including but not limited to the following:
You could face perjury charges if the information is incorrect in your petition and you try to hide property.
You could lose your home, vehicles or other property if you do not know how to determine if they are protected prior to filing your petition.
Your case could be dismissed due to the errors made in your petition.
You could have to attend additional hearings to explain the errors in your petition to the judge.
In most cases, hiring an attorney after filing bankruptcy does not reduce your bankruptcy costs but instead will increase your costs due to that attorney having to repair the problems with the initial bankruptcy filing which takes extra time.
A non-attorney bankruptcy preparer cannot give you legal advice. This creates an enormous risk for you since there are so many factors to consider in determining which option of bankruptcy is right for you. At Bond & Botes, we offer a free initial consultation with a licensed attorney to help you determine what bankruptcy option may be best for you and we offer affordable payment arrangements to help you deal with the costs of filing bankruptcy.
Mary Pool is a shareholder of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Montgomery and Opelika, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a Juris Doctorate from Faulkner University’s Jones School of Law. She has represented thousands of clients over her more than 11 years working in the bankruptcy field. Read her full bio here.