Published on October 16th, 2021
You can file bankruptcy without an attorney.
But it’s usually not a good idea. Though nothing is stopping you from filing the paperwork without an attorney, it can lead to significant mistakes on your end, the delay of your bankruptcy, or even the bankruptcy process getting audited.
You may find that the bankruptcy doesn’t help you as much as you thought it should have or that you declared the wrong type of bankruptcy.
Let’s take a look at what it takes to file bankruptcy without an attorney… and why you should consider having legal representation.
Filing For Bankruptcy Pro Se
Filing for bankruptcy on your own is called filing pro se. It means that you put through your bankruptcy paperwork on your own.
If you have some legal background, understand the financial implications, and have all your documents well in order, this could be an option for you. But there are downsides to this process.
It’s very likely that a bankruptcy filing performed by a non-professional is going to get bounced back because it isn’t going to be filed correctly. And that wastes valuable time on your end; time that you could be using to get your financial life back in order.
A lot of documentation and effort goes into filing for bankruptcy. You could find that you spend more time just trying to correct your documents and chase down your information rather than getting it filed.
Finally, it’s also possible you could make a major mistake. And that mistake could cost you a lot. For instance, you might not put something on your bankruptcy that you could have gotten alleviated — or you might not report accounts that you should have reported.
The Process Of Declaring Bankruptcy Pro Se
To declare bankruptcy on your own, you would simply fill out the bankruptcy paperwork, send in the documents requested, and then wait for the bankruptcy trustee to connect with you.
The trustee is the individual who is in charge of the bankruptcy; they’ll be going through your documents, asking for clarification, and then arranging for the bankruptcy to occur.
The trustee is necessary because they need to make sure your credits are getting paid off and that they’re getting paid off in the right order.
Your assets will need to be liquidated for the correct amounts and, once the assets have been liquidated, the money will need to go directly to the individuals that you owe.
After all your assets have been liquidated and everyone who can be paid has been paid, the trustee will then ensure that all further debts (that qualify) have been written off.
Ensuring Your Documents Are In Order
There are a lot of documents that have to be filed during the declaration of bankruptcy. Not only can it take a long time to collect these documents, but it’s easy to forget something.
Did you know that sometimes you can get student loans discharged under bankruptcy? It’s rare, but it can happen.
But a lot of people forget to include their student loans in their bankruptcy filings even if it’s possible that they could get them discharged.
So, you need the expertise of a bankruptcy attorney to make sure that you get everything put together properly.
Catching Any Potentially Harmful Mistakes
What happens if you forget to include a bank account? It could have huge ramifications such as undoing your bankruptcy or getting your entire bankruptcy audited. But it might not be something like fraud. It could just be forgetfulness.
An attorney is going to make sure that everything is correct and will not be questioned. This will prevent your bankruptcy from getting bounced back repeatedly for review or for modification. You don’t want to waste any time with your bankruptcy; you want to get it done right the first time.
Advising You On The Bankruptcy Proceedings
No one but a legal professional or an accounting professional can advise you on your bankruptcy.
Because it is legal and financial advice, they aren’t allowed to. The clerk that you go through or the person who is going through your bankruptcy (your trustee) is not going to be able to advise you on whether you’re doing the right thing.
Sometimes, there are other alternatives. For one, there are two types of bankruptcy: there are Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 bankruptcies. So, you might need one or the other, but not be sure which would be for the best.
Because of this, you really need the advice of a legal professional. They’ll be able to go over your financial situation and determine the best course of action for you.
Helping You Make Sure The Bankruptcy Goes Through
What happens if your bankruptcy gets denied? Now you’re back to square one and you may have wasted a lot of time.
While you can file bankruptcy without an attorney, it absolutely heightens the chances that your bankruptcy is going to get kicked back to you.
And while you may be able to get it through eventually, it’s going to take a lot more time. It will be stressful. And it will be longer still that the bankruptcy is taken off your report.
So, ultimately, yes, you can file a bankruptcy without a bankruptcy attorney. But you generally shouldn’t.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to talk to a professional about whether you should declare bankruptcy and what the process will be.
You may find out that the process isn’t going to be as expensive as you think. Talk to a professional bankruptcy attorney today to find out more.