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Why You Shouldn’t File for Bankruptcy Without an Attorney

By Brenner Spiller & Archer, LLP | March 13th, 2019

Picture of a courthouse.Bankruptcy laws do not require debtors to have an attorney to file for bankruptcy, but is it wise to represent yourself in order to save some money? Some people worry about the cost of an attorney so they take a crack at it alone…but what lurks around the corner for an unrepresented debtor?

What can go wrong?

Bankruptcy law is extensive and complicated. It isn’t user friendly, nor does it lend itself to easily figuring out its intricacies on your own. Learning it can be an intellectually humbling experience – even for an an attorney. Even with thorough research it is easy to make a mistake during the bankruptcy filing process. Let’s cover some of the most common mistakes self-represented debtors make.

Before filing

In some cases, trouble can start even before you file for bankruptcy. The most common errors are filing the wrong chapter type or filing when you don’t need to. Each bankruptcy type has distinctive benefits that solve certain problems and property is treated very differently in each chapter. Filing the wrong chapter can bring about a loss of valuable property or end up not discharging certain debts. Without a clear understanding of what bankruptcy can and cannot do, a filer might end up filing unnecessarily without exploring what their alternatives are.

The pitfalls of paperwork

Bankruptcy is undoubtedly driven by lengthy and complicated federal and local forms. Plus there is paperwork for education course certificate filing, and forms to accurately list property exemptions. Inexperienced debtors trying to wrangle the complicated bankruptcy forms on their own can easily omit forms, file the wrong forms, or fill out forms erroneously. If all of the required bankruptcy documents are not filed, you risk losing valuable property or your case could be dismissed.

Adversarial Proceedings

After filing for bankruptcy, disputes can arise concerning debts you included in the filing. If this happens, an adversary proceeding must be filed by you, the creditor, trustee, or other interested party in the dispute. There are numerous types of disputes that must be filed as adversary proceedings including an action seeking an injunction or similar equitable relief, an action to revoke the court’s order that a plan be confirmed, an objection to the discharge of a debt, and countless more. Debtors facing an adversary proceeding will undoubtedly benefit from the help of an attorney.

How an attorney can help

Bankruptcy lawyers protect you when going through the filing process by dealing with creditors, clearing debt, and setting up payment plans. Not only will you receive sound legal advice from a bankruptcy expert, but they will handle all the complicated paperwork from start to finish. Other ways an attorney helps is through their representation at mandatory hearings, and the ability to deliver better returns on your behalf. They identify hidden dangers and help you avoid mistakes. Commonly there is little to no failure in the proceedings with an attorney. Given the complicated procedures involved in bankruptcy filings, you’re better off with a bankruptcy lawyer who can protect your rights as a debtor.

In Conclusion

A bankruptcy proceeding can be an extremely stressful situation. Just because you can file without an attorney doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest to do so. With all of the intricacies of bankruptcy law, the number of forms, and the various possibilities for challenges, motions and contested matters complicated issues are bound to arise that most self-represented filers aren’t prepared to handle. Failure to understand all of the elements within the process may end up causing dismissal of your case, unnecessary loss of valuable property, or you to inadvertently commit fraud. To avoid finding yourself in any of those predicaments, having a trustworthy attorney is essential to your success. An attorney can help ensure that your bankruptcy goes smoothly, see to it that you save money, and reduce your stress.

This article should not be taken as legal advice. If you’re considering bankruptcy or any other legal debt relief option, you need to consult an attorney for guidance. If you’re in New Jersey and seeking legal assistance, we can help you.

Brenner Spiller & Archer, LLP is a New Jersey law firm that is dedicated to helping families find relief from the burden of debt and other financial woes. For more than 35 years, our bankruptcy lawyers have provided effective guidance on all debt relief matters to clients throughout Central and South Jersey.

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