21 April 2009

How to File For Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer

Individuals are allowed to represent themselves in bankruptcy court. One doesn't need an attorney but be warned - success is not easy! There is so much to know and do. Do something wrong, forget to do something and one might may mess up their rights and success. Second chances are not often given.

Having a good lawyer who specializes in bankruptcies is highly recommended. Some people qualify for "pro bono" (this means free) legal counseling. Contact the state bar association, court websites, and/or local law schools for more information on getting assistance or at least some advice. Check out the American Bar Association the Legal Services Corporation, or the web site of the bankruptcy court where you intend to file.

One needs to be familiar with the US Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and the rules of the local court in which the case is filed. One can find "local rules" and other useful information at the local courthouse and on its website.

Debtors (that's the person trying to get out their debts) must list all property and debts in their bankruptcy schedules. US Goverment Form B200 lists documents and schedules you will need.
  • Be thorough - debts not listed will not be discharged!

  • Be honest - if you are caught with one tiny indescretion, the judge can deny the whole case. No destroying, manipulating, distorting, hiding or lying!

  • Cases are audited. If you are caught cheating, you are guilty of a crime (bankruptcy fraud) which means going to jail. Um, hmmm!
Individulas who want to file for bankruptcy must get credit counseling from an approved provider within 180 days before filing their case. One must also file a Statement of Compliance and a Certificate of Credit Counseling (given by the counselor).

If you do not know where you are permitted to file a case, check the Official Bankruptcy Forms page to see the box on Form B1 (Voluntary Petition) entitled "Information Regarding the Debtor - Venue" and the part of the Instructions relating to that box.

If you are filing or involved in a bankruptcy case and do not have an attorney, check out the web site of the bankruptcy court where the case has been or will be filed as well as the Bankruptcy Resources page.

Non-Attorney Petition Preparers type up information on Bankruptcy Forms (forms are free, available at this link). They must sign every document they prepare; print their name, address, and social security number on the documents, and give copies to the debtor. They cannot sign a document on the debtor's behalf or receive payment from the debtor for court fees. They are barred by law from providing legal advice, telling debtors what to say in court, or helping out during court.

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