If you are considering bankruptcy, you may think you can save money by doing it yourself and not hiring an attorney. Although it is legally possible for individuals to file for bankruptcy without attorney assistance, the pitfalls are great and your petition may be dismissed without having your debts discharged.
The petition and schedules that must be attached to the petition are complex. There is federal law, state law, exemptions, credit counseling, a means test, adversary actions, motions, meeting of creditors and many other aspects that can be daunting to an individual. An experienced and knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney can help you with all these things including, but not limited to:
- Determining if filing for bankruptcy is your best alternative: Depending on the nature of your debt, attorneys can advise you of whether or not bankruptcy will really help you. If not, they can suggest viable alternatives.
- Filing under the correct chapter: There are differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, depending on the amount of your income, property you hope to keep and other factors. If you file under the wrong chapter, you may lose property and still owe certain debts at the end of the process.
- Properly filling out required schedules: States have different requirements and local courts may even have their own filing forms and requirements. Attorneys are familiar with these nuances in the law. Also, if any of the required information is not provided, you risk not having all of your debts discharged.
- Choosing the correct exemptions: The trustee cannot take exempt property and add it to the bankruptcy estate. Exempt property is yours to keep. The list of exemptions do change periodically. Each xemption must be listed on a bankruptcy schedule along with the relevant law that exempts it. If exemptions are not correctly listed, you risk losing certain property. Attorneys know how to work with you and the court to maximize your available exemptions.
- Adversary actions and meeting of creditors: If a creditor files a motion objecting to the discharge of a particular debt, attorneys know how to respond and defend you against the objection.
Experts in general agree that it is highly likely that an attorney can help you keep more property and have more debt discharged if you have the assistance of a knowledgeable and experienced bankruptcy attorney. The money you spend on attorney’s fees will most likely be recouped in the property you are allowed to keep and the debt you are able to have discharged.