Filing Bankruptcy on Your Own, Then and Now
I have been a personal bankruptcy attorney for nearly eighteen years and I have got to say that one bankruptcy trend that is almost impossible to ignore is how personal bankruptcy seems to be becoming increasingly more complex with every passing year.
Back in 2000, I would often see pro se filers appearing at 341 hearings pretty regularly. Though the results of self-filing were often a disaster, a debtor could slap together the 50 pages of forms, fill them out by hand, make all the required copies and then head over to the bankruptcy court to stand in what was then(before electronic filing for attorneys) long lines to file their cases. If a debtor wanted a little help she could always hire one of the hundreds of document preparers that were open for business.
Again, the results of self-filing were often tragic, but the process of putting paperwork that could be processed by the court was not. The schedules in 2000 were pretty understandable and other than determining which exemptions should be selected to protect each asset, a reasonably intelligent person could get a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case filed.
Chapter 13s was as inappropriate then for the self-filer as it is now, but a debtor could often get through enough of the paperwork to at least get through the meeting of the creditors before having the Chapter 13 Trustee gently but firmly guide them to hire a local Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney to take over
Eighteen years later, I think that a pro se filer is making a big mistake in attempting to complete a chapter 7 bankruptcy without the help of an experienced attorney. dance from an experienced lawyer.
There are now often more than one set of exemptions to choose from and it is not at all apparent from the paperwork which ones should be chosen. The opportunity to accidentally commit some form of perjury cannot be underestimated. I review questions on an almost daily basis about the “Means Test” that is now a part of a bankruptcy filing. These questions come from attorneys. If it is an occasionally confusing and perilous process for an attorney to complete this section of the bankruptcy paperwork, completing it on your own, under penalty of perjury, seems almost insane.
There is a reason why most of the document preparation shops have closed up. The liability risk unaccompanied by the malpractice insurance carried by attorneys made the business too risky for most shops to continue.
I get it that people file on their own often out of desperation because they feel that they either have a simple case or because they just don’t have the money for the attorney fees.
With respect to the complexity issue, everyone thinks they have a simple bankruptcy. A review of your income and your property is only part of what goes into determining the simplicity of your case. There are a number of minefields out there that can make bankruptcy a nightmare that has nothing to do with how much you make or what you own. Finding out about these only after a bankruptcy trustee is selling off your car or going after your family member for money that you transferred is the wrong way to find out that your case wasn’t simple
With respect to the financial issue. I get it. Most firms want all the money up front and your take is probably the same as almost everyone I run into. “If I had $1800 in cash, you wouldn’t need to be filing bankruptcy.” But you don’t need much money up front. Our firm, Phoenix Fresh Start Bankruptcy Attorneys will often file a case with nothing down and then take our fees in manageable monthly installments after your case is filed. Money does not need to be an issue.
Don’t file on your own. Call Phoenix Fresh Start Bankruptcy Attorneys first and let’s talk it over.