The sales pitch of the “bankruptcy assistance” sites or the petition preparers claims that since bankruptcy is nothing more than filling out forms, why do you need a lawyer?
You need a lawyer to 1) know what goes in those forms; 2) to help you plan so as to keep as much as the law allows; and 3) to guide you through what follows filing those forms.
A bankruptcy case is begun by filing forms that identify your assets; your debts; your budget; and your recent financial history. The trustee studies those forms to determine whether you qualify for the chapter you filed; whether you are entitled to the exemptions you claimed; whether he can sue any of your family members whom you paid off before the case, etc.
Then there are the matters of the now increased number of “duties of the debtor” during the case, omission of which may get your case dismissed, etc.
There are certainly simple situations and smart and thorough individuals who might, if lucky and diligent, get a discharge as a pro se debtor. But that is much more difficult under the amended Bankruptcy Code. Even the determination that the case is truly “simple” requires a knowledge of the law, not just the forms.
How much do you want to bet that you can just fill in the forms and get your discharge?
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Cathy Moran, Esq.
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Last modified: March 30, 2007