How can I file bankruptcy myself and what are is the risk if I do? 19 Answers as of July 04, 2013

I have seen a few posts on the need to hire an attorney, I just wanted to get some information on what is the biggest risk in filing myself and also if there are any resources you could recommend to me. Thank you!

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Dan Shay Law
Dan Shay Law | Daniel Shay
Make sure you qualify and make sure you exempt your assets. For a chapter 7 you must pass the Means Test (unless majority business debt) and your valid monthly expenses must exceed your monthly income. For a chapter 13, you must have enough income to make the plan work and cover other expenses and must not be over the debt limits.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/14/2011
Mercado & Hartung, PLLC
Mercado & Hartung, PLLC | Christopher J. Mercado
It's not required to hire an attorney but definitely recommended. You need someone to correctly prepare your schedules and exempt your property.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 7/11/2011
Law Office of Maureen O' Malley
Law Office of Maureen O' Malley | Maureen O'Malley
You can, but I recommend strongly against it. You take a huge risk of losing assets or having the discharge denied. When you consider how much you'll be giving up in debt, you'll see that a lawyer's fee is a small investment.
Answer Applies to: Virginia
Replied: 7/11/2011
Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall
Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall | William M. Rubendall
There are risks in filing a bankruptcy without an attorney. Generally, it is inadvisable if your own property or have considerable assets. You might want to consult with a Nolo Press publication on the procedures for filing yourself. Check with Barnes and Noble or go online.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/11/2011
Law Office of J. Scott Logan, LLC
Law Office of J. Scott Logan, LLC | John Scott Logan
You can file on your own. The greatest risk is losing nonexempt property. If you have property you cannot or do not protect, you may lose it, which may cost a lot more than the $1649 a good lawyer will cost you.
Answer Applies to: Maine
Replied: 7/8/2011
    Financial Relief Law Center
    Financial Relief Law Center | Mark Alonso
    Risks that are presented when people file their own bankruptcy really depends on how complex or simple the case is. Generally, I would say that if you have assets, you should discuss with an attorney regarding how to protect those assets if you file. Not all assets are exempt. If you don't have any assets, but just debt, then you may be able to file alone without the help of an attorney. Other reasons you may want an attorney is to have someone present representing you at the 341a hearing, and to make sure that you have met all of the pre-bankruptcy filing requirements as well as the post-bankruptcy filing requirements. I would advise you to research the court websites for the forms and take a look at the exemptions for CA - there are two sets of exemptions and you must choose from one (federal exemptions are not available in CA).
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/7/2011
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney | Janet Lawson
    I have no idea what your assets or debts are are. The risk is poor timing and loss of assets. Some errors can be fixed, some can not.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/7/2011
    Tucker Legal Clinic
    Tucker Legal Clinic | Samuel Tucker
    You need to have a bankruptcy lawyer help you file-period. There is a very good chance that a pro-se debtor will not file a properly completed petition and the case will have to be dismissed. You lose time and filing fees. When you file again there are problems with the automatic stay that require further intervention in the court. The creditor lobby has been very effective in influencing Congress to make the filing of a bankruptcy case more complex and difficult over the years. Again, best advice here is to get a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 7/7/2011
    The Law Office of Mark J. Markus
    The Law Office of Mark J. Markus | Mark Markus
    The biggest risk is completely screwing up your case to the point where you cannot fix it. How badly and to what degree you can mess it up depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your situation. I like to look at it this way: Would you perform a tonsilectomy on yourself? You probably could. Get a sharp knife, numb the back of your throat and cut. Maybe you'll get lucky and it will heal properly and you won't pass out and hit the floor and crack open your head. Maybe it won't get infected and you'll have to have emergency measures taken to save your life. There is a reason why attorneys practice in court. There's even more reason why those who specialize in bankruptcy practice in bankruptcy court. Anybody can represent themselves in court. Not many are successful.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/7/2011
    Carballo Law Offices
    Carballo Law Offices | Tony E. Carballo
    The risks are too many to state but it includes losing property you own, having the case dismissed and being denied a discharge. There are books like the Nolo Press Chapter 7 Bankruptcy book that you can buy and read cover to cover to learn how to do it and the risks involved depending on your situation. If it is a Chapter 13 you are contemplating then it way to risky to do without an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. Some people (about 10 to 15% of the persons filing depending on the area) are successful in Chapter 7 cases without an attorney if they spend the time learning how to do it properly. You may have to dedicate many hours to learning how to do it. You are expected to know the law, what forms are required, how to fill out the forms properly, where to file them, etc.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/7/2011
    Indianapolis Bankruptcy Law Office of Eric C. Lewis
    Indianapolis Bankruptcy Law Office of Eric C. Lewis | Eric Lewis
    The biggest risk in filing for bankruptcy relief by yourself and not knowing what you are doing is potentially losing property, money, and other assets. People have lost homes, cars, and money because they did not understand the bankruptcy exemptions.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 7/7/2011
    Colorado Legal Solutions
    Colorado Legal Solutions | Stephen Harkess
    I would recommend that you hire an attorney. The biggest risk is probably that you will lose property that could have been protected if you knew what you were doing and set things up correctly. There is also a risk that your case will be dismissed and you will waste your time and filing fee. There are many other risks of undertaking a major new activity without knowing what you are doing - too many to list in detail. If you insist on representing yourself, I would suggest that you read the bankruptcy code, the bankruptcy rules (federal and local) and study a couple of books on the subject so that you are prepared to handle everything.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 7/7/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    The biggest risks are that you could make mistakes that could actually be criminal and land you in federal prison. You could make lesser mistakes and be denied a discharge, and if you misschedule certain things or make other mistakes, you could lose assets you should have kept. You may also end up not wiping out debts you could have eliminated. Most pro se cases go badly. Most cases with lawyers go better. Bear in mind that most non-bankruptcy lawyers who need to go bankrupt hire lawyers. So if they won't go pro se, what hope do you have? Do you know how to determine whether a 7, 13 or 11 is best and whether you qualify? Do you know how to rearrange your exemptions to keep the maximum amount of assets possible? Do you know how to respond to a Trustee audit? Do you know how (and if) to file a motion to avoid lien, or a lien strip? Do you know how to address a trustee or creditor objection? If you make a mistake in pleadings, do you know how to draft an amendment? Do you even know which address to use for certain creditors so that you actually discharge debts? Do you know how to e-file? Do you know how to go on Pacer and check court dockets? The small amount you spend on a lawyer is more than worthwhile; it really is necessary.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 7/6/2011
    William C. Gosnell, Attorney at Law
    William C. Gosnell, Attorney at Law | William C. Gosnell
    You can represent yourself but i don't recommend it. I have been a lawyer for 35 years and its very complicated even I must do research one complicated problem.
    Answer Applies to: Tennessee
    Replied: 7/6/2011
    Law Office of Harry L Styron
    Law Office of Harry L Styron | Harry L Styron
    If you know you can file Chapter 7 then you should be able to do it yourself or with the help of a petition preparer. If you will be required to file Chapter 13 because of your income then you will need an attorney to assist you. The risk in both cases is that if you leave something out your discharge can be denied. The risk in Chapter 13 is that preparing a plan is very complex.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/6/2011
    Raxter Law
    Raxter Law | Jeremiah Raxter
    You risk your petition begin dismissed by the court.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/4/2013
    Ursula G. Barrios Law
    Ursula G. Barrios Law | Guillermo Machado
    You won't know the forms and how to fill them out. Attorney is strongly recommended.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/4/2013
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