Recently there has been an increase in the number of Debtors coming into the office asking for help. The problems are always the same. They filed bankruptcy without an attorney and the Chapter 7 Trustee is now threatening to take their assets or their case cannot be completed because something wasn’t done correctly. It is very sad and in most cases completely unnecessary. In an effort to save money, the Debtors are in fact spending far more in the value of the lost assets.
Since 2005, a bankruptcy filing without an attorney is very difficult and full of pit falls for the unwary. Among the pits falls are the Means Test required to qualify for bankruptcy, pre-bankruptcy counseling, and analysis of exemptions, preferences, inheritance and tax issues. And these are just for starters.
Before filing bankruptcy without an attorney, you should consider the following:
1. Pro Se Debtors are easy prey for creditors and the Chapter 7 Trustee. The creditors and the Chapter 7 Trustee are there to protect the interests of the creditors and the bankruptcy estate. They are not there to help you.
2. Pro Se Debtors are led to believe that Bankruptcy is just a fill in the blanks process. In fact, Bankruptcy law is very complicated area of the law. Filling in the blanks without knowing the law is a recipe for disaster.
3. Pro Se Debtors are not going to be helped by the Chapter 7 trustee. The bankruptcy trustee will not take responsibility for educating you. For example, if you fail to claim an exemption or claim the wrong exemption, the trustee is not going to help you.
4. Pro Se Debtors get into trouble because they do not understand the law as it applies to their assets. Do you understand Joint Tenancy and Tenants in Common? Does it affect your case? Did you recently get divorced? Is the trustee going to object to your settlement? Do you have past due income taxes which are eligible for discharge in bankruptcy? Are your mutual fund protected as an IRA? Do you have an exemption available to protect next year’s tax refund? Do you have the right to an inheritance? Did you transfer money in the last year to a family member? How much equity do you have in your car or your home? Is it protected?
5. Pro Se Debtors also get into trouble because they do not understand the extent of disclosure and filing requirements. Do you know the credit counseling and financial management requirements? Do you know what it means when the US Trustee files a 707(b) motion? Do you know how to answer discovery requests? Do you know what discovery is?
If you need to file bankruptcy, you should seek legal counsel. The cost of legal counsel will be a faction of the debt you seek to discharge in the bankruptcy. It is better in most cases for you to wait a month or two and pay for legal counsel and know your case was done right versus being one of the many cases where there are problems. Don’t be a penny wise, but a pound foolish especially when you don’t know how many pounds it will. I see people for a FREE 30 minute consultation at my offices located in Walnut Creek and Brentwood.
WE ARE A DEBT RELIEF AGENCY. WE HELP PEOPLE FILE BANKRUPTCY RELIEF UNDER THE BANKRUPTCY CODE. THIS INFORMATION IS NOT PROVIDED AS LEGAL ADVICE AND SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON IN MAKING ANY DECISION REGARDING ASHORT SALE OR FORECLOSURE. THIS INFORMATION IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR OBTAINING TAX & LEGAL ADVICE REGARDING AN INDIVIDUAL SITUATION. GRIMESBKLAW.COM (925)939-1680