The law doesn’t require you to have an attorney when filing for bankruptcy. In most cases, however, having the right attorney can make all the difference in your case.
Is It Possible to File for Bankruptcy Without an Attorney?
Legally speaking, you don’t need an attorney to file for bankruptcy. According to a recent poll, around 11% of bankruptcy cases are filed without an attorney. Therefore, the question isn’t can you file without an attorney but rather should you file without an attorney.
What Does an Attorney Do for You During a Bankruptcy Proceeding?
The attorney’s job begins before anything has been filed. Legal counsel will start by telling you whether you should file in the first place. If you should file, the lawyer can inform you which chapter to file under. Legal counsel will also let you know if you can discharge your debts and notify you about which assets you can keep once you’ve filed. Furthermore, an attorney could explain all the tax consequences of filing.
Upon starting the proceedings, your attorney will be responsible for walking you through the motions and making sure that you check all the necessary boxes as things move along. This includes helping you file the necessary forms at every stage, explaining to you bankruptcy law as it relates to your case, and assisting you with the case in any way you need.
What Will Be Expected of a Solo Filer?
Obviously, if you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, you are already strapped for cash and every little bit counts. Therefore, it’s natural for you to consider whether you need an attorney to file for bankruptcy or whether you can go at it solo. This would make you a pro se litigant.
If you go solo, you will need to perform all the duties that would have been carried out by your attorney. For example, you will have to familiarize yourself with the United States Bankruptcy Code as well as with the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure and with the unique rules of the court in which you file your case.
To make things simpler, here are a few things you might want to start with:
- You should understand how bankruptcy forms work.
- You’ll also need to know means testing information: The means test is a gauge that tells the government whether you have enough disposable income to pay off your debts or not.
- You will need to know the required education providers around you as you must finish a session with an approved credit counselor before you can file for bankruptcy. And, after you have filed, you will be required to participate in a debt management course.
- It’s also important to know which of your assets will be exempt from the bankruptcy proceedings.
Making the Decision of Going With a Lawyer vs. Going Solo
As you can see, filing for bankruptcy on your own isn’t impossible; it’s just a lot of hard work. With that said, here a few factors that will make it easier for you to decide whether you should go on your own or get legal counsel:
- To begin with, you need to figure if you’re going to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. In general, Chapter 13 filings tend to be more complicated. The more complicated the case, the better off you will be with the right attorney by your side.
- Another variable to take into consideration is how much income you have and the number of assets that are at stake. Again, a lot of income and property means a complicated proceeding.
- The most important variable in this entire equation is you. You need to be honest with yourself and figure out how willing you are to put in the work and effort required to manage your own bankruptcy case. You also need to assess how comfortable you would be with taking on this responsibility.
Even If You Go Solo, You Can Get Help Along the Way
There are several resources you can tap into for help whenever you need it. For starters, some bankruptcy courts offer pro se clinics where you will have an attorney explain your bankruptcy options and proceedings. Similarly, there are several legal aid organizations and legal clinics that do the same thing.
If you are considering the benefits of bankruptcy, reach out to Neuner & Ventura in Marlton, New Jersey. You are always welcome to visit our offices for a free consultation. Just contact us at (856) 596-2828 or drop by when you can.