I Can’t Afford A Bankruptcy Lawyer–Do I Really Need One?

28 Jul I Can’t Afford A Bankruptcy Lawyer–Do I Really Need One?

You are thinking that you may need to file bankruptcy but you are concerned that you do not have the money for a bankruptcy lawyer. You are wondering whether you can afford to pay a qualified attorney to handle your case for you. Perhaps the better question is–can you afford not to!

Just recently, I learned of a person in my districtwho filed a bankruptcy case without the assistance of a lawyer.This personused a bankruptcy petition preparer from out-of-state to assist in completing the paperwork. Oncethe paperwork was filed with the court,the case started to unravel immediately. This person was going through a divorce and, in order to obtain possession of the house, borrowed money from arelative to pay the other spouse. Thisloan was secured by a deed of trust on the marital home. However, becausethe deedof trust was recorded within just a few days ofthe bankruptcy filing, the trustee’s positionwas that the lien on the house could be set aside as a pre-petition preference. Of course, the bankruptcy petition preparer is unable to offer assistance(andcannot asthat would be practicing law without a license). The trustee is asking the bankruptcy court for permission to sell the house in order to pay creditors.

The above scenario is, no doubt,not what the debtor wanted out of bankruptcy! So, how could an experienced bankruptcy attorney have made a difference? By getting a full view of the debtor’s financial picture, obtaining relevant documents to ensure that security interests are properly perfected and by knowingwhat the debtor’s goals are in a bankruptcy case. The lawyer cannot always accomplish those goals (most likely, suchgoals are unrealistic) but can certainly work to avoid what appears to be actually happening, that is, loss of debtor’s home.

The Bankruptcy Code is a complicated federal statute. It often involvestechnical terms and rules of practice that are unfamiliar and foreign to other attorneys who do not practice bankruptcy law. If other attorneys find it somewhat confusing and mystifying, it is far more so to non-attorneys trying to handle their own case.

Itis well worth your time and money to have an experienced bankruptcy attorney help you through this process. I am sure that the debtor in the case above has found that trying to save money by not hiring a bankruptcy lawyer has proven to be a false economy. If you think that you can’t afford a bankruptcy attorney, you really can’tafford not to.

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Adrian Lapas, Esq.

I've been practicing bankruptcy law in North Carolina since 1993, and am certified as a specialist in consumer bankruptcy law by the North Carolina State Bar.
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