While corporations and partnerships require an attorney’s representation to file bankruptcy, individuals may represent themselves in court. This is not recommended, however; in fact, it could result in your petition being denied or delayed. You could lose the right to file another case, or lose protections like the automatic stay. There are permanent consequences to filing for bankruptcy. You will want to make sure filing for bankruptcy is done by competent attorneys familiar with bankruptcy law.
The United States Bankruptcy Code is highly technical and is subject to frequent revisions. A bankruptcy attorney will help you gather all the necessary paperwork to handle your filing. Failure to file even one required document could result in your case being dismissed. All debts must be listed on the bankruptcy schedules; overlooking a debt means it won’t be discharged.
Bankruptcy Law Is Complex
Don’t just hire the same lawyer you use for estate planning or personal injury. Attorneys that are familiar with bankruptcy law will know the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and avoid the many potential pitfalls in a successful filing. For instance, don’t try to hide or destroy property, falsify records, or otherwise lie about your financial situation. The judge will find out, and your case could be dismissed, or you might have to attend additional hearings, or you could even lose your assets. Individual bankruptcy filings are randomly audited for accuracy, completeness, and truthfulness.
Not only are there the Federal laws to know, but individual district courts can each have their own rules and regulations for filing bankruptcy. And just to make it more complex, within each district court, individual bankruptcy trustees may also require their own additional procedures. You want your case to go as smoothly as possible. Hire a bankruptcy attorney who knows the local rules of your district and its trustees.
Inexperienced Legal Representation Can Cost You More In The Long Run
For Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings, the more complex the case, the higher your attorney’s fees will be. However, those fees can still vary significantly from one lawyer to another. It’s a good idea to get several quotes.
For Chapter 13 filings, most districts have guidelines limiting how much attorneys can charge. However, attorneys may charge different amounts for their up-front fees before filing your case. It is possible with Chapter 13 filings to pay a percentage up-front, and then wrap the remainder into the repayment plan. Some attorneys may ask you to pay the full amount, though, so always ask about initial fees.
Filing for bankruptcy is not a simple procedure. There’s a lot of paperwork to compile, and you want to be sure you hire an attorney who is experienced in bankruptcy law. Communication is critical, especially during the consultation stage, so you’ll want an attorney who is available to you, and returns calls or emails promptly.
Disclaimer: This is not meant to serve as legal advice. You must consult a lawyer for proper legal advice.
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