Do I need a lawyer to file for chapter 7 bankruptcy? 20 Answers as of July 11, 2013

I am planning to file for chapter 7 bankruptcy but I am wondering if I need to hire a lawyer or if I can do it on myown. Is it normal to hire a lawyer for this or is it an easy process filling for the chapter 7? What are the advantages I guess.

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Mercado & Hartung, PLLC
Mercado & Hartung, PLLC | Christopher J. Mercado
It is not required but recommended. An attorney that practices BK will be able to use his or her's expertise to better counsel you.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 7/12/2011
Law Office of Lynnmarie A. Johnson
Law Office of Lynnmarie A. Johnson | Lynnmarie Johnson
I have seen a few people who successfully have done it on their own. I don't know how since attorneys have to file everything online, but there must be a way to do it. But be very careful, it is very confusing and very easy to lose something because you didn't exempt it right. Good Luck!
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 7/6/2011
Bird & VanDyke, Inc.
Bird & VanDyke, Inc. | David VanDyke
Yes. My advice is to always hire a lawyer for any legal proceeding. The filing of a chapter 7 can be difficult. You must file an approximate 60 page document with the court, attend a hearing and many other things. Also if you make certain mistakes you cannot simply dismiss your case. Get a lawyer to help you.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/5/2011
Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney
Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney | Janet Lawson
Some people do it without a lawyer. Some of those people make huge mistakes. It can cost allot more to fix mistakes - some mistakes can't be fixed. Without know all of your facts, it would be impossible to adequately answer that question.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/5/2011
The Northwest Debt Relief Law Firm
The Northwest Debt Relief Law Firm | Thomas A McAvity
The only people that I see leaving Chapter 7 341 meetings in tears are debtors who with thousands of dollars on the line and no legal experience at all opted to try to save some money by filing on their own.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 7/5/2011
    Jackson White, PC
    Jackson White, PC | Spencer Hale
    The advantages are that the attorney knows the laws and how to avoid pitfalls in your bankruptcy. It is common to hire an attorney for a chapter 7 and highly recommended. Of course, there is no legal requirement to have an attorney to file bankruptcy, but I would not recommend it.
    Answer Applies to: Arizona
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Law Office of Dennis Jay Sargent Jr, PLLC
    Law Office of Dennis Jay Sargent Jr, PLLC | Dennis J Sargent Jr.
    You do not need an attorney to file bankruptcy, Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. However, it makes the process a lot easier and less stressful for you. The attorney has the experience and training to take the burden off the consumer debtor. In addition, the attorney will be able to field calls from your creditors which will allow the abuses and calls from creditors to stop. In addition, bankruptcy is such a fact specific part of the law, that the attorney may be able to help with peculiar situations that arise during the course of the bankruptcy.
    Answer Applies to: North Carolina
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Breckenridge and Walton
    Breckenridge and Walton | Alan D. Walton
    Can you fly a plane without a pilot to assist you. Probably - but it is the landing that requires skill! Anyone can file a case without a lawyer, but getting through the process without losing anything, or without getting your case dismissed because you did not file a required document is not easy.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Theodore N. Stapleton, PC
    Theodore N. Stapleton, PC | Theodore N. Stapleton
    It is always best to have an experienced attorney when filing Chapter 7 or any other bankruptcy proceeding.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/4/2013
    Law Offices of Alexzander C. J. Adams, P.C.
    Law Offices of Alexzander C. J. Adams, P.C. | Alexzander Adams
    You do not per se need a lawyer to file a bankruptcy, but it is highly recommended. In the same way you could change your transmission or do your own home mortgage closing documents, it is prudent to employ an expert to help you through what is for most people single most significant financial restructuring they will ever go through.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Carballo Law Offices
    Carballo Law Offices | Tony E. Carballo
    The fact alone that you ask this type of question means you definitely need a lawyer. A person with sufficient knowledge to maybe do it without a lawyer would not ask a question like this. I would say that 80 to 90 % of the debtors in the Northern District of California filing Chapter 7 cases are represented by an attorney. There is information for self-represented debtors in the court's website and the judges recommend against filing "pro se" (no lawyer). The process is easy for an experienced bankruptcy attorney but risky and difficult for someone with no knowledge of bankruptcy law, even for an attorney who has not practiced bankruptcy law.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Law Office of Maureen O' Malley
    Law Office of Maureen O' Malley | Maureen O'Malley
    You're absolutely entitled to file on your own. But there are too many mistakes you could make and to retain counsel to fix them will cost twice as much. Think about how much debt you're discharging and you'll see you're getting a bargain to have a lawyer do it right, the first time. Every time I see someone representing themselves I see unnecessary mistakes that cost time and could cause a loss of assets and even a denial of discharge.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    The advantage of hiring a lawyer in a bankruptcy is enormous. Most chapter 7s with lawyers go smoothly. Few chapter 7s without a lawyer go smoothly and some end up as costly catastrophes. You should absolutely NOT file pro se. Even a tiny error in filing can result in denial of a discharge, or loss of assets that you could have kept (such as a car, home, furniture, jewelry or retirement). The case is far more than the 50 or so pages you must file on day one. You will have at least one hearing and could have more than one. Do you know how to classify your exempt property, and use your wildcard to protect otherwise nonexempt assets from the Trustee? Can you complete the means test calculation, and, if you fail, do you know what tweaks might let you pass? Can you respond to a bad faith motion or audit from the US Trustee? Do you know the cheapest places to get both credit counseling sessions and when to file that paperwork? If you have a mortgage, do you know how modifications and bankruptcies interact? Do you know what debts you SHOULD or should NOT reaffirm and why? Do you know how to deal with stay violations by creditors and motions to lift stay? Do you know how to negotiate better terms on a reaffirmation? Do you know how to be sure you have used the address a creditor must use in bankruptcy for notices, rather than some other address? Can you even complete the schedules? Do you know what to say (and not say) at the creditors meeting? Those questions are but a few of the many you need to know (and it takes a lawyer years of study to learn them). A good lawyer may actually save you money in the long run.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Law Offices of Joseph A. Mannis
    Law Offices of Joseph A. Mannis | Todd Mannis
    You're going to do this once in your life, wouldn't you want to make sure it is done right? Would you do your own dentistry?
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/4/2013
    The Law Office of Mark J. Markus
    The Law Office of Mark J. Markus | Mark Markus
    You can file bankruptcy yourself, but it is never advisable. Just like you can perform surgery on yourself, but I wouldn't recommend it. Some paralegal services (non-attorneys) charge a minimal fee to prepare and file the necessary paperwork to file a bankruptcy. While in some "extremely simple" cases this may not be a major problem, it has been my personal experience that the risk is simply not worth it and, quite frankly, there is no such thing as a simple bankruptcy case anymore. Part of what goes into the bankruptcy petition comes from insightful and probing questioning from a qualified bankruptcy attorney. Paralegals and other "bankruptcy petition preparers" are strictly *prohibited from practicing law* and, therefore, they *cannot give legal advice* or ask the necessary questions to make sure you are completing your paperwork fully and completely. (This doesn't seem to stop them, however, from illegally doing so and giving improper and inaccurate advice see the case below). They cannot give you advice on how to take the proper exemptions to protect the assets you have, which could result in you losing those assets in a bankruptcy case. Even if they were legally allowed to do so, they are not able to adequately assess the laws surrounding exemptions and to determine what your best options are. For example, you may assume there is no problem with listing a particular asset, or reaffirming a particular debt, only to find out months or even years from now, that because you filed the bankruptcy or didn't take appropriate steps, that you did not get rid of that debt, or that you may lose an asset, or any number of other problems. Perhaps more importantly, paralegals cannot represent you in court if the need should arise (and it often does when paralegals handle things) nor are they liable to you if they screw up. Moreover, if you list things incorrectly in your petition, or omit necessary items, it is YOUR problem, not the paralegal's. You sign all your bankruptcy papers under penalty of perjury. Many times I have watched a bankruptcy debtor in front of a judge, facing the complete denial of their discharge, pleading with the judge to help them because they didn't have an attorney representing them. Ultimately, the debtor may have to spend several thousand dollars to attempt to remedy a situation that could have been prevented, or at least planned for, at the beginning.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Colorado Legal Solutions
    Colorado Legal Solutions | Stephen Harkess
    You never need to hire a lawyer for any court case. You can represent yourself. You have to understand the responsibility that goes along with this right. If you choose to represent yourself, you need to ensure that you study and learn all of the law and rules that apply to your case. You also need to ensure that you carefully read everything you are sent from the Court to ensure that you take care of all of the requirements. It is possible to successfully complete a Chapter 7 filing without an attorney if your case is relatively simple and there are no unusual complications. You risk doing something (or missing something) that will get your case dismissed and deny you a discharge. You also need to ensure that you understand and properly claim all of the right exemptions or you may lose property to the Trustee that you would have been able to keep or use if you understood the process better. There are many advantages of working with someone who has handled hundreds of bankruptcy cases versus handling yours on your own. You will have to determine whether the cost savings is worth the risk and whether you are willing and able to put forth the effort to learn everything you need to know to handle the case on your own.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Ursula G. Barrios Law
    Ursula G. Barrios Law | Guillermo Machado
    It is uncommon to do it alone though you have the right. If you've never done it before you won't have a clue what you're doing. Go with an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Symmes Law Group, PLLC
    Symmes Law Group, PLLC | Richard James Symmes
    Yes you may file chapter 7 bankruptcy on your own, however it is not advisable. In order to make sure things go smoothly you should hire a lawyer as it is the norm.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/5/2011
    Law Offices of Steven A. Wolvek
    Law Offices of Steven A. Wolvek | Steven A. Wolvek
    I always recommend using a lawyer - the advantages are making sure your assets are protected - having help navigating through the system from start to finish as opposed to doing it yourself.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/5/2011
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