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Debt Relief – Insolvency – Bankruptcy Information » Bankruptcy Law » Do you need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?

Do you need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?

A family member in NJ wants to file, but doesn’t have the money for a lawyer.


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2 Responses to "Do you need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?"

  1. rpg says:
    Legally you are allowed and entitled to represent yourself in bankruptcy. In fact, since 2005, any bankruptcy attorney you consult is required by law to inform you that you are legally entitled to file bankruptcy without a lawyer.

    However, the fact that you are legally allowed to do so does not mean that is a wise choice. You are probably legally allowed to perform brain surgery on yourself too, but that doesn’t mean it would be a good idea.

    EVERYBODY who needs to file bankruptcy probably feels as though they can’t afford an attorney. After all, they’re bankrupt!!!! Who could afford a lawyer if they’re bankrupt?!?!?

    Bankruptcy attorneys are well aware of this, and a critical part of their practice is figuring out how to make their services accessible to clients.

    Your family member should consult a bankruptcy attorney (most offer one free or very low cost consultation) and should discuss (among other things) how it would be possible to pay the attorney’s fee.

    In Chapter 13 (which is more expensive than Ch 7) most attorneys’ fees are included in the payment plan submitted to the court, and payable over the following 3-5 years. In Ch 7, attorneys often advise clients to stop making payments on UNSECURED dischargeable debts (but do not stop making payments on SECURED debts that the client will be reaffirming, or on non-dischargeable debts) and to use those funds instead to pay the attorney’s fees.

    For clients who have no income, and therefore cannot “save” anything up by not making payments on dischargeable debts, attorneys may suggest other options.

    Encourage your family member to talk with one or more bankruptcy attorneys to discuss their options. Feeling as though they “can’t afford a bankruptcy attorney” because they’re “broke” is definitely NOT unique to their situation.

    Filing one’s own bankruptcy is fraught with potential pitfalls, and can often lead to much worse (and more expensive) consequences.

    Being represented by somebody who is not an attorney (although there are some folks out there who claim to do this) is extremely ill advised. It is against the law for a person (or – based on a recent court decision – a computer program) who is not an attorney (including “paralegals” and “people – or computer programs and websites – who help debtors fill out the forms”) to represent a cleint in bankruptcy. Those “form-filling-out help-places” can legally ONLY help with such things as typing and spelling — they cannot (legally) advise a person which form to use or how to fill it out unless they are attorneys licensed to practice law in the debtor’s jurisdiction.

  2. Bedford S says:
    You don’t need an attorney but it is advisable. They can go to the federal district court and pick up paper work to file. Reason attorney is recommended has to do with listing of debts (missing one can have entire bankruptcy thrown out) (omitting income can be criminal case if not listed completely) Also court fees will be required and on chapter 7 will have to show he went through credit counseling.

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