Can I really file bankruptcy without a lawyer? 32 Answers as of July 30, 2011

I have been reading articles about how to do it yourself and how to do it with signing up for online services. Are these scams?

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Colorado Legal Solutions
Colorado Legal Solutions | Stephen Harkess
In short, online bankruptcy preparation services are scams. They cannot provide you legal advice and without legal advice you cannot ensure that your situation is being addressed properly. You also will be left on your own for the meeting with the Trustee and any other issues that arise. Finally, you will have no one you can go to or lodge a complaint against if you have any problems because you are dealing with someone in another state or country. If you decide to have your paperwork put together in this manner, make sure you read it carefully, that you review your state laws and the bnakruptcy code to determine that all of the exemptions are properly claimed and that all of the property you wish to keep is claimed as exempt, and closely read everything you receive from the Court. You will be responsible for acting just like an attorney. The form prep place cannot give legal advice or answer legal questions, so you must be prepared to act just as an attorney would.
Answer Applies to: Colorado
Replied: 7/26/2011
Bankruptcy Law Center
Bankruptcy Law Center | Bill Zurinskas
Yes, it is legal for a person to file their own bankruptcy without a bankruptcy lawyer in Colorado. Just contact the Colorado bankruptcy court's website and download the forms for free. The Colorado bankrupty court also has staff which assist debtors in preparing the paperwork and creditor matrix necessary to file the bankruptcy, but they don't give legal advice. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is almost impossible to file (and succeed) without the assistance of an attorney, but it is possible to file & successfully complete a simple chapter 7 bankruptcy without a bankruptcy attorney. The key word here is "simple". The only way to Know if a case is simple is to talk to a bankruptcy attorney and ask the right questions. If you attempt to answer and complete the bankruptcy forms and don't have a clue, then hire an attorney. The forms don't tell you how to classify the debts and howto choose your bankrupty exemptions, so you need to do some research. There are many Bankruptcy Petition Preparers in Colorado, they are cheap (can't charge over $200), totally unregulated, and unfortunately almost always practice law without a license. Debtors without attorneys tend to lose more assets, reaffirm debts that they probably shouldn't and must attend the meeting of creditors without representation. Is it wise to file bankruptcy without an attorney? In most cases, it is probably not. Unless you are willing to do your homework (such as getting a "How to" publication, such as "How to File for Chapter 7 bankruptcy" by Nolo Press, then hire an experienced bankruptcy specialist (over 10 years bankruptcy experience, thousands of cases filed).
Answer Applies to: Colorado
Replied: 7/25/2011
Cartwright Law Firm
Cartwright Law Firm | Andrea Cartwight
You can file bankruptcy by yourself. There are bankruptcy kits available at office supply stores, which cost about $30.00. Remember the old adage "that a person who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer"? There is some truth to that statement. I do not recommend that you file by yourself. You could lose valuable property or rights if you don't know what to do or not do. The more assets you have to lose in a botched bankruptcy, the more it is worth your while to pay a lawyer to protect them in a bankruptcy proceeding. While Chapter 7 is easier than Chapter 13, even in Chapter 7, there can be legal problems you won't know how to handle. It's always best to consult an experienced attorney. Very few people have successfully completed a Chapter 7 case without an attorney. I recommend that you consult a lawyer, get an overview of your situation and any issues that are presented in your case. Most bankruptcy attorneys offer free initial consultations or at a reduced cost of their hourly rate.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 7/24/2011
The Northwest Debt Relief Law Firm
The Northwest Debt Relief Law Firm | Thomas A McAvity
Let me put it this way: I have been filing bankruptcy cases for over a decade and I would never do my own bankruptcy. This is one of the biggest financial transactions you will likely enter. Probably not such a great time to just give it a whirl and see how it turns out.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 7/24/2011
Lehn Law, PA
Lehn Law, PA | Joseph W. Lehn
It is possible to file bankruptcy without the services of a lawyer but not advisable. Most document preparation companies are not law firms and cannot legally represent you in bankruptcy court.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 7/23/2011
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney | Janet Lawson
    Could be. If they are just a typing service they can't give you legal advice, and who is going to step up to the plate if there is a problem?
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Everett Walton, Attorney at Law
    Everett Walton, Attorney at Law | Everett Walton
    Go to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court web site. There you can obtain all the necessary forms and instructions.
    Answer Applies to: Hawaii
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Mauritz Van Niekerk, Attorneys at Law
    Mauritz Van Niekerk, Attorneys at Law | Christiaan van Niekerk
    Yes you can. Bankruptcy law is complicated and do not advice to do it without a lawyer. Most lawyers will work with you on a payment plan for their fees
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Law Offices of Carol M. Galloway, P.A.
    Law Offices of Carol M. Galloway, P.A. | Carol Galloway
    Yes, you can really file bankruptcy without a lawyer. However, in my opinion, it is not advisable. Most anyone can fill out the schedules where you list your name, address, and debts incurred. However, without professional experience, the non lawyer would not have knowledge of, among other things, exemptions, preferential payments, and transfers. Therefore, it is best to consult a professional.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    The Schreiber Law Firm
    The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
    You can, but you may want to check answers to prior questions here where doing it yourself has caused people to lose assets to trustees since they didn't understand the law and these form preparation services are not permitted to give legal advice, nor represent you at the hearing with the trustee.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Rosenberg & Press
    Rosenberg & Press | Max L. Rosenberg
    The articles are scams. Do not attempt to file a bankruptcy on your own. I feel like I should repeat this. This is like trying to fix your car's transmission without knowing the first thing about mechanics or engineering. You will wind up with a car you can not drive. Ironically both the transmission and the attorney fees for a bankruptcy are approximately comparable. Don't take up brain surgery. Unless you have the requisite education, the command of the statuary materials, the knowledge of the exemptions and other important particulars, you are only playing at being a lawyer and could very possibly cause yourself serious trouble. If you want a root canal, see a dentist. If you want an animal stuffed, see a taxidermist, if you want glasses see an optometrist. Don't be foolish. Hopefully, this is a once in a lifetime event. Hire a qualified attorney!
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Indianapolis Bankruptcy Law Office of Eric C. Lewis
    Indianapolis Bankruptcy Law Office of Eric C. Lewis | Eric Lewis
    You can file without a lawyer but that is unadvisable and it is true that most of the agency promoting that are either scams or "petition preparation services" that are basically committing the unauthorized practice of law.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Carballo Law Offices
    Carballo Law Offices | Tony E. Carballo
    Yes, most online services are scams. Yes, you can do it yourself if you spend enough time educating yourself. Yes, you will be taking a lot of risks and go through a lot of frustration and there will be no one to help you if you get in trouble. You cannot dismiss a Chapter 13 case without permission from the Court so that if you make a mistake then you may not be able to back out. It is not recommended by the Court itself that you do it without a lawyer. Review the information for "pro se" filers in the website of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court - Northern District of California or whatever district you have to file.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall
    Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall | William M. Rubendall
    It is possible to file bankruptcy without an attorney. Be careful of document preparers who charge a lot of money to type the forms. One idea is to get a self-help book on bankruptcy. Nolo Press is the best one.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Melinda Murphy Dionne, PC
    Melinda Murphy Dionne, PC | Melinda Murphy Dionne
    You can file bankruptcy without a lawyer. I don't believe any bankruptcy judge or lawyer would recommend that course of action but it can be done.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Rosenberg & Press, LLC
    Rosenberg & Press, LLC | Christopher D. Hite
    You could try, but most times I have seen it's a disaster and then they end up hiring someone like me to fix it and it costs twice as much. Let me put it this way: would you buy a few sharp tools and do your own dental work?
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Breckenridge and Walton
    Breckenridge and Walton | Alan D. Walton
    You need an attorney experienced in bankruptcy. Sorry, but you would not do open heart surgery on yourself, why would you do it on your financial well being?
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Eric J. Benzer, Attorney at Law
    Eric J. Benzer, Attorney at Law | Eric Benzer
    Yes...you can but not always wise option
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Bird & VanDyke, Inc.
    Bird & VanDyke, Inc. | David VanDyke
    Not sure but my adice is to always hire a good attorney for any legal proceeding. I have seen much heartache from people who tried to do it themselves. Way to many pitfalls.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Financial Relief Law Center
    Financial Relief Law Center | Mark Alonso
    Yes, you can file without an attorney. However, I would recommend this if your debt/ assets are relatively simple and not a complex situation. Ie: if you don't really have any assets and your debt is largely made up of unsecured debt. If you end up doing it yourself, be careful of the resources or online services you sign up for. If you're unsure about the complexity of your situation, I would contact an attorney who is willing to meet with you face to face for a free consultation. Many people are filing for bankruptcy in the current economy and therefore there is a lot of healthy bankruptcy competition in this field, and so you may be able to find an attorney who can give you the time and attention you need for a reasonable price. If you can get it done that way, it might save you a headache later down the road.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Ursula G. Barrios Law
    Ursula G. Barrios Law | Guillermo Machado
    You can but you shouldn't.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Apple Law Firm PLLC
    Apple Law Firm PLLC | David Goldman
    We have many clients that tried to file bankruptcy and then hire us to fix their problems. One of the problems is that without knowledge of how to apply for the proper deductions and use them correctly you may overpay or to receive the full benefit you are entitle to
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    If you want to possibly lose your assets, have a headache, and possibly not get the relief you want, file yourself. It will probably be one of the worst mistakes of your life. A mistake could cost you some assets, or mean denial of a discharge, or even bring criminal charges. Pro se cases often go badly. Here is the question you need to answer. If you feel you fully understand all the terms in this paragraph, you MAY have the knowledge to file pro se: (1) Do you know how to calculate, and tweak, the means test? (2) Do you know how to take the maximum exemptions permitted by law, and do you know which items could be exempted under different categories? (3) If a creditor files a motion for relief from stay, do you know how to respond, and if you should? (4) If you are singled out for a Trustee audit, do you know how to answer the CPA? (5) If you make a mistake in schedules, do you know how to amend? ( 6) Do you know why most reaffirmations are a bad idea? (7 ) Do you know which pre and post filing classes are cheapest? ( 8 ) Do you know what a preference is and whether you did any? ( 9 ) Do you know which of your debts may be challenged as non-dischargeable? (10) If you are upside down in a home, do you know how to lien strip? Didn't ace all 10 questions? Get a lawyer. It really matters. (And if you do file pro se, using an online service is the WORST way to go).
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    The Law Offices of Steven Grace
    The Law Offices of Steven Grace | Steven Grace
    There's more to bankruptcy than just entering your income and expenses and I find it hard to believe a service can cover everything. There's much more that can go wrong and its good to have someone to think about these issues beforehand. If you misunderstand something and a trustee has an issue this could cause serious consequences.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Law Office of Maureen O' Malley
    Law Office of Maureen O' Malley | Maureen O'Malley
    Online services? Nameless, faceless help from someone who doesn't know you or have any liability? Not good to file w/o competent counsel, who can help you over the potholes, save you stress and money, and do it right. Consider, also, the attorney fee in relation to the amount you're discharging.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Symmes Law Group, PLLC
    Symmes Law Group, PLLC | Richard James Symmes
    Yes, you can file bankruptcy without a lawyer, but it is not advisable. Bankruptcy attorneys can advise you best.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Mercado & Hartung, PLLC
    Mercado & Hartung, PLLC | Christopher J. Mercado
    It is not required to hire an atty but recommended. An attorney will be able to use his or her's experience & expertise to help you through the BK process
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/22/2011
    Dan Shay Law
    Dan Shay Law | Daniel Shay
    I would either do it yourself or hire a lawyer. BK is all about income, expenses and assets. Make sure they are all where they need to be and that your assets are exempt on
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/22/2011
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