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Can I File Bankruptcy On My Own

Can I File Bankruptcy On My Own?

When you file bankruptcy, you are required to have an attorney to represent you – if you’re filing bankruptcy as a corporation or partnership.

But if you are filing Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy – on your own –  as an individual, or a married couple, you are permitted to file on your own. It’s called Pro Se bankruptcy.

But, is filing as a pro de debtor a good idea?

Here is an analogy to attempting to file a bankruptcy on your own:

You have likely flown as a passenger on an airplane many times.  It doesn’t look too hard to fly a jet, right?  You just sit in the cockpit on the left hand side, push the throttle levers all the way forward and when you think you are going fast enough, you just pull the steering wheel in front of you back and….whoosh… off you go up into the air. Then you just steer the thing in the direction you want to go.  Landing looks a little tricky, but, we will just figure that out when we get there.

Personally, that’s not a risk I’m willing to take.  When I fly, I buy a ticket and pay someone who knows what they are doing to get me there quickly  and in one piece.

Filing bankruptcy on your own is no different than flying a jet on your own. It can be done, but it’s risky.

Here are six excellent reason that you should not attempt to file a bankruptcy on your own.

  1. Pre-filing requirements must be met before you can even file bankruptcy. You have to learn what all the requirements are, in what order they must be met, and what has to be done to meet them. Without these requirements met, your filing is in vain.
  2. You might commit fraud without knowing it. Certain acts that you wouldn’t even think twice about, such as selling something, giving items or loaning money to relatives preceding or following a bankruptcy filing, are considered criminal acts of fraud. Your bankruptcy attorney will counsel you about what to do – and more important – what NOT to do – before you file.
  3. You could lose valuable assets. The bankruptcy code is complicated—more than 500 pages of law that became vastly more complicated after revisions to the code in 2005 that made it harder to discharge some types of debt. Not being familiar with the law in an intimate way means you can’t benefit from it fully. Your bankruptcy attorney knows these laws backwards and forwards, and knows how to apply the exemptions in your state in order to protect your assets from being sold by the Bankruptcy Trustee.
  4. You must prepare a means test. The means test is a complex analysis of your income and expenses, and it’s used in the most vital and rudimentary aspect of a bankruptcy proceeding; you can’t file bankruptcy if you don’t know which chapter you are filing. The means test determines this, and if you get it wrong, your case is dismissed.
  5. If you fail, your credit will suffer, but you won’t get any benefit. At any point you can encounter a fatal error in your filing that could cause you to go back to square one. And that doesn’t come without cost—a dismissal still affects your credit rating, yet you don’t get the protection, debt discharge, or the benefit of the automatic stay that comes with a bankruptcy filing.
  6. Your bankruptcy attorney can help you rebuild your credit and life after you file bankruptcy. We know credit better than anyone. We know why credit repair is a BS scam, and we know how to get great credit after bankruptcy. 
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Estate Planning Attorney Eric Ridley