For those who are exploring the need to file for bankruptcy protection, some may not realize there are non-lawyers available who can prepare the bankruptcy petition, schedules, and statements for filing. What is the advantage of using a bankruptcy petition preparer versus a bankruptcy attorney? In one word, money. Bankruptcy petition preparers charge far less than bankruptcy attorneys for their services, as mandated by the Bankruptcy Code. While this may seem intriguing to a person considering filing for bankruptcy relief because they do not have enough income to pay their bills, it is critical to understand why the fees for a petition preparer are less. The ONLY thing a bankruptcy petition preparer can do is type up the bankruptcy petition, schedules and statements from information provided to them by the client.
What Bankruptcy Petition Preparers Can’t Do
- File the actual bankruptcy petition itself
- Advise the client whether or not bankruptcy relief is well suited for the client’s needs and what chapter of the bankruptcy code to file under;
- Advise the client what exemptions to claim to protect their property in the bankruptcy process;
- Go into court to represent the client before the Bankruptcy Court;
- Insure all necessary steps and forms required to exit the bankruptcy with a discharge are filed with the Court.
A misstep on any of the above can end up with a disastrous result for a person seeking bankruptcy relief.
In addition to the above, while there are many qualified bankruptcy petition preparers there are also many unscrupulous people offering to prepare bankruptcy petitions. It is difficult to know if the preparer you are considering hiring is a good guy or a bad guy. Since the only advantage to using a bankruptcy petition preparer is the cost involved in filing for bankruptcy relief, let me offer a suggestion. Call our office to schedule an appointment and discuss your case with a bankruptcy attorney. Our offices offer a free consultation to evaluate your case and provide you with the options available. You can discuss with the bankruptcy attorney the amount they will charge for his or her services and you can also discuss how those costs can be paid. You will likely find that a bankruptcy attorney will work with your circumstances in getting the fee paid. The hiring of a qualified bankruptcy attorney, as opposed to a petition preparer, will insure that you are represented throughout the whole bankruptcy process and are receiving legal advice throughout the process.
It is important to evaluate the issues mentioned above if you are considering using a bankruptcy petition preparer in your process of filing for bankruptcy relief. A bankruptcy attorney is there to advise you legally, including whether or not a petition should be filed given your particular concerns or circumstances, and to navigate you through the court process. If you are considering a bankruptcy option and need assistance please contact one of our locations nearest you for a free, confidential consultation with one of our experienced, licensed attorneys.
Carla M. Handy is the Managing Partner of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Gadsden and Anniston, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law. She has been helping families navigate consumer bankruptcy cases since 1994.Read her full bio here.