31 Dec New Forms for Bankruptcy Cases
Effective December 1, 2015, new forms are required for all bankruptcy cases. Since the bulk of Bankruptcy Law Network attorneys file consumer cases, I will confine my comments to consumer cases–that is, predominantly, chapter 7 and chapter 13 cases. The forms are designed with the goal of making the forms easier for consumer debtors to complete. Perhaps, more people will decide to file bankruptcy without an attorney.
While this may be a laudable goal, my opinion is that this should offer faint comfort to potential debtors reviewing the forms. One thing that goes along with the forms is the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. There are also over 500 volumes of bankruptcy case law contained in the bankruptcy law reporters and this does not include the appellate court reports or US Supreme Court cases. The forms are not a substitute for knowing the Code, the deadlines and intricacies contained in the Code and may be required under the local rules of your bankruptcy court.
While the forms may be easier to elicit the information required by the Code, what is not explained is the legal significance of the information requested by the forms. For that, a debtor should retain a lawyer to explain the intricacies and make a reasoned decision as to whether a bankruptcy case is warranted or advisable. As an example, a few years ago, I was sitting in a creditors’ meeting when a pro se (filed without an attorney) debtor told the trustee that she had given her house to her son “but it was okay because the house was paid for.” This was trouble for the debtor.
Unfortunately, the new bankruptcy forms may be easier to complete but that may lead some debtors inclined to file bankruptcy to think that they do not need an attorney. This may lead to disastrous consequences.
If you are contemplating filing for bankruptcy, seek the advice and assistance of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer.