Must I Have An Attorney to File Bankruptcy?
by Michael Sosna
Technically, “no.” You can file a bankruptcy by yourself; it’s called filing pro se. It’s also a generally bad idea.
If the question is “should I have an attorney represent me in my bankruptcy case,” the answer is decidedly “yes.”
The reason you should have an attorney in your bankruptcy case is because the bankruptcy laws and procedures are very complicated. If you file pro se and make a mistake or an omission, your case could be dismissed, and you could lose the benefits and protections that bankruptcy law offers. Statistics prove that cases filed by pro se debtors have an exponentially higher failure rate than cases involving debtors who filed with an attorney.
Bankruptcy law is a specialty. It requires expertise; that is, a knowledge of the law and familiarity with the procedures for this particular area of legal practice. That means that not every lawyer handles bankruptcy cases. Once upon a time, lots of general practice attorneys – lawyers who handle a wide variety of different kinds of cases – “dabbled” in bankruptcy and sporadically filed cases for individual clients from time to time. That all changed in 2005 when changes to the law made handling a bankruptcy case so complicated that general practice attorneys stopped accepting bankruptcy cases. Today, most attorneys who represent clients in bankruptcy cases limit their practice to primarily bankruptcy.
While the law does allow you to file your case without an attorney, there are many pitfalls associated with doing so. The examples are endless, but there are several common scenarios. If you do not take the required credit counseling course from an approved agency, your case will be dismissed. If you do not thoroughly and correctly complete the “schedules” – many pages, detailing your assets, liabilities, income and expenses – your case will be dismissed. If you do not properly calculate the means test, your case will be dismissed. If you do not properly calculate your plan, if you are filing a Chapter 13, or properly complete the Statement of Intentions, if you are filing a Chapter 7, you case will be dismissed. If you do not properly exempt your property, the Trustee will be able to seize it for the benefit of creditors. If the failure to complete the paperwork correctly results in a false statement or omission, you may be subject to prosecution by the US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Finally, litigation could arise within your case: among other things, a creditor could file an “objection to plan confirmation” or “objection to discharge.” You need an experienced attorney in your corner to represent you in these scenarios.
In other words, bankruptcy is too important for you to take a chance. Most firms focusing on bankruptcy – including Sosna Law Offices, PLLC – offer a free initial consultation in addition to flexible payment arrangements of attorney’s fees. In order to ensure that your bankruptcy is done right, talk to an experienced bankruptcy attorney today.
Sosna Law Offices, PLLC is exclusively dedicated to helping people file bankruptcy cases. Bankruptcy law is all we do. If you would like to know more about bankruptcy and how it can help you stop foreclosure or repossession, or allow you to discharge credit card debts, call our office at (252) 937-3027 to arrange a free consultation with one of our attorneys.