Between 2005 and 2017, close to 13 million bankruptcy petitions were filed with the U.S. courts, and this number is only expected to grow. There are a number of reasons that people seek to reorganize their finances through bankruptcy, from overwhelming healthcare costs, to job loss, to divorce or high mortgage payments in a devalued market. Still, many candidates for bankruptcy wonder if an attorney fee is worth it. Isn’t is just yet another cost?
If you are facing growing debt that you can’t pay off, contact Sirody & Associates for a free consultation. Start rebuilding your financial future. Call (410) 415-0445.
Laws About Bankruptcy
The simple answer to the question, “Do I need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?” is “No”. Federal bankruptcy laws don’t stipulate that you must hire an attorney in order to file, but it is prudent to have an experienced attorney guide you through the process. Technically, if you file for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may do so without retaining a lawyer. But, before you do so, there are a number of factors to consider such as the complexity of your petition, how much income and property you have and whether you are fully confident in your ability to file your own petition. People who have an income that is below average state levels or who do not own much property may have a straightforward Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but even in less complex cases such as this, going at it alone is still not recommended.
Filing Without A Bankruptcy Attorney
Individuals who choose to file for bankruptcy without an attorney can face a number of challenges. For example, they may miss important deadlines or they may fail to fully understand which materials must be provided to the court. The bankruptcy process is complex, and failure to comply with every aspect can result in a dismissal. When a bankruptcy case is dismissed, the debtor is again at the mercy of the creditors and collections agents and generally must wait 180 days before refiling.
There are many stumbling blocks that a person may run into while filing for bankruptcy on their own. For example, after filing for bankruptcy, there is a meeting of the creditors, which is a required hearing. An individual filing on their own may not understand the importance of this meeting, or may be unaware of how to reschedule if they have a conflict. Failure to attend this mandatory meeting will result in a dismissal. Bankruptcy petitioners must also attend a required credit counseling course within 180 days of filing. Failure to attend or complete the course will result in an automatic dismissal. Here are some additional items that could directly result in or be a contributing factor in a bankruptcy dismissal:
- Inadequate understanding of state and federal bankruptcy laws.
- Lack of knowledge about specific state exemptions.
- Missing an important deadline.
- Failing to fully understand and/or complete a form.
- Inability to explain missing assets.
- Missing a required document submission.
- Transferring property within a year of filing for bankruptcy.
- Inability to coordinate the many moving pieces of a complex bankruptcy case.
- Lack of experience to successfully negotiate a feasible repayment plan.
Retaining A Bankruptcy Attorney
It’s important to keep in mind that bankruptcy is not always a simple and straightforward process. Even very highly organized people struggle with the countless forms that must be completed, the documents that must be collected and the arduous schedule of appointments and deadlines. Filing for bankruptcy requires a significant time investment. The process can quickly overwhelm even the most diligent individual, whereas an experienced attorney can help pave the way for a smooth court filing.
Opting to hire an attorney who can guide you through the process will provide peace of mind and help ensure that you are able to start over with a clean financial slate. To find a reputable bankruptcy attorney in your area, start by asking friends or relatives for a recommendation or look online at bankruptcy attorney reviews. Another resource that may be helpful is our list of “Questions To Ask A Bankruptcy Attorney.” At Sirody & Associates, we take the time to understand each client’s unique situation and help them get their finances back in shape. Contact us online for a free consultation or call (410) 415-0445.