Most people who are struggling to make ends meet think they cannot afford to hire a bankruptcy attorney. However, if you are planning to file your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case pro se (without a lawyer), you should be aware that it may cost you more than you realize.
Most individuals who represent themselves in a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 filing quickly realize it is very difficult. Attorneys must attend years of school and receive training before they are allowed to represent you in court. The bankruptcy laws and rules of the court can be confusing. If you are not familiar with the applicable laws and rules, it is very easy to make costly mistakes.
Although the Internet is full of “self-help” websites and there are a variety of do-it-yourself books, these types of sources are limited to providing you with general guidance. Nothing can replace a local attorney who has practiced before the judge or trustee handling your case and understands how to efficiently handle your filing. Working with an experienced lawyer can dramatically improve your chances of having your personal bankruptcy go smoothly and you obtaining a discharge (elimination) of your debt.
One common area where pro se debtors run into trouble is in applying the “means test.” The means test is actually a mathematical formula applied by the court to determine whether or not you qualify to file a Chapter 7 case. The means test is confusing and it is easy to make mistakes when applying it to your finances. Failure to properly apply the means test could result in your case being dismissed.
Another common error made by debtors who represent themselves is failing to properly apply exemptions to protect assets. If you fail to claim the appropriate exemptions, it could result in the trustee seizing an asset that should have been excluded from your bankruptcy estate and selling it to pay your creditors.
There are numerous deadlines that must be met during your bankruptcy filing. If you are unaware of a deadline or you otherwise fail to timely file your pleadings, the court can dismiss your case. Having a bankruptcy attorney by your side helps ensure that these types of errors do not occur. It also helps ensure that your best interests are being protected.
Before you file a pro se case, think about how much more it will cost you if your case is dismissed and you must refile or if you lose a valuable asset that could have been protected. Hiring the right attorney can not only save you money in the long run, it can also save you time and stress.
At The Law Office of Diane Anderson, our lawyer has faced Chapter 7 bankruptcy. She understands the anxiety and fear that accompanies working through this process. But, after coming out on the other side, she started her own law firm and is living a life with less worry and strife. Contact us today to get the help and guidance you need in order to take control of your finances.