The United States Bankruptcy Court provides all of the necessary forms to file for bankruptcy "pro se", or without the guidance of a bankruptcy attorney. Their website also details the process and timeline for filing the forms as well as the necessary procedures to follow before, during, and after the bankruptcy filing.
However, bankruptcy is a complicated process, fraught with possibilities for errors that could prove costly to the average filer regarding the loss of personal property or dismissal of the bankruptcy case altogether.
What are the Possible Pitfalls in Filing for Bankruptcy Without an Attorney?
Most of the difficulties with filing for bankruptcy are associated with providing information about your personal finances, debt, and property. Mistakes, omissions, or outright misrepresentation of your financial situation could result in failure.
You must include information about the income of your household, even if you are filing for bankruptcy by yourself. Current income, as well as income for the six months before the filing, must be included in order to determine if your household exceeds your state's median income level.
The relation of your income to the state median level will determine your eligibility for filing for specific types of bankruptcy and well as possible repayment plans for your creditors.
All types of regular income must be included, including interest, dividends, or even regular cash assistance from parents, adult children, or other family members. You must also list any expected future income, such as pending inheritances, as well as major financial transactions for the two years before filing.
It's also important that all of your debts be included on your bankruptcy forms. Any debts that are not listed may survive the discharge, or forgiveness, of debts when the process is completed.
Intentional failure to include specific debts, such as omitting one current credit card in order to maintain credit after bankruptcy, can result in dismissal of the case.
You must be scrupulous and thorough about listing the value of your personal property to determine if the equity in your property exceeds the exemption allowances provided. Exemptions protect personal property from liquidation in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases and help to determine repayment plans in Chapter 13 reorganization of debt filings.
Property such as your home and vehicles are most at risk when filing for bankruptcy because the exemptions allowed by individual states vary greatly.
All of these factors, combined with a multitude of other possible issues, should cause even the most confident filer to pause at going it alone and enlist the help of a bankruptcy lawyer. Contact a financial legal counsel service for more information and assistance.
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