Finding a Bankruptcy Lawyer
in Columbus, Georgia
Residents of Columbus and Muscogee County will want a bankruptcy attorney that is familiar with filing cases in the Georgia Middle District Bankruptcy Court, and has experience with the trustee that will be appointed to your case.
If your income is low, you may be able to get bankruptcy representation
through your local legal aid organization.
Listing of free
legal services in Georgia from Legal Services Corporation.
Listing of bankruptcy pro bono programs in Georgia from ABIWorld
guidelines to qualify for legal aid.)
Search The Web
Use the search box below to do a GoogleSearch for bankruptcy attorneys that serve your area.
Columbus, GA Bankruptcy Attorney
Columbus, GA Bankruptcy Lawyer
31907 Bankruptcy Lawyers
Directories of Columbus
Bankruptcy Attorney Advertising.
Type in your zip code to find bankruptcy attorneys in your area who are members of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA).
Nolo offers lawyer profiles and asks the attorney whether they're open to the idea of working with people who have read up on the subject of bankruptcy.
Started by original FindLaw founder and "free law" pioneer, Tim Stanley, Justia.com has localized listings & profiles of attorneys that have been listed on lawyer directories services,including Nolo's and Cornell University's LLI project.
Here is a Google map of the Columbus area with pointers to the offices of bankruptcy attorneys.
Ten Ways a Bankruptcy Lawyer Can Help You
There is no requirement to use a lawyer to file for bankruptcy. However, some people decide to hire one to help them get through the process.
Although I write self-help law books, I realize that -- when it comes to complex forms, tight deadlines, and piles of details -- not everyone is cut out for do-it-yourself law.
Whether you're a good candidate for doing it yourself, depends on the complexity of your financial situation, and your willingness to take the time to learn the rules of bankruptcy and complete work carefully, and on time, and meet all filing requirements and deadlines. (If you're not the type of person that is willing to follow instructions carefully, then self-help bankruptcy is probably not for you. For more discusion, see the help topic: Do I Need Lawyer?)
Indeed, there are many ways that a lawyer can help you in filing for bankruptcy. Here are at least ten ways that come to mind:
- Help you classify exempt property.
- Help answer issues about debt and expenses on the means test.
- Help decide whether bankruptcy is the best solution for your particular situation.
- Help you organize all of your relevant financial details into the appropriate forms.
- Help you meet all filing requirements and deadlines.
- Help you analyze whether you qualify for lien avoidance (and decide when to use it)
- Help you untangle complicated property ownership issues with jointly-owned property and divorce.
- Help decide if a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the right option for you.
- Help you write a Chapter 13 plan that the local trustee will accept.
- Give you local knowledge about what your trustee generally allows when it comes to "reasonable" expenses.
Like tax law,
bankruptcy is a specialty. Someone claiming to be a bankruptcy lawyer should be able to point
to experience and deep knowledge of the specialized law of bankruptcy,
and specifically, your local court.
Most bankruptcies are routine for someone who has done many of them. Chances are very good that an experienced
bankruptcy attorney has seen your situation many times before. The lawyer you choose should be able to advise you on the best way
to proceed with your bankruptcy given your assets, your debts, your secured debts, whether there are cosigners, and other issues.
If you're going to pay for a bankruptcy lawyer, make sure you
get a good one. Just because someone is a lawyer does not mean
they are knowledgeable about bankruptcy law. Do your homework before you hire someone.
Using Non-Lawyers (Bankrupty Petition Preparers) to help you
See this article on Should I use a Petition Preparer.
Credit Counseling & Debtor Education
Before you file for bankruptcy, you must get credit counseling,
and get a certificate proving that you have done so. You MUST
use one of the approved
counseling agencies for your court district.
There are many shady credit counseling agencies that advertise
heavily on TV and other media. They call themselves non-profit,
are really just fronts for profit making businesses and are designed
to funnel people into dead-end payment plans that do little for the
consumer. Indeed 40% of the industry has been targeted by the IRS
to remove their non-profit status [NPR
has published a
"Consumer Alert" pamphlet for debtor thinking about bankruptcy
warning about shady credit counselors and
how to protect yourself from falling victim to one. You can download
the pamphlet here.
Again, be sure to use only a credit counselor that is on the
approved list of counselors for your court district.
Even assuming you're using a legitimate credit counselor, a recent GAO report to Congress stated that:
"The value of the credit counseling requirement is not clear. The counseling was intended to help consumers make informed choices about bankruptcy and its alternatives. Yet anecdotal evidence suggests that by the time most clients receive the counseling, their financial situations are dire, leaving them with no viable alternative to bankruptcy. As a result, the requirement may often serve more as an administrative obstacle than as a timely presentation of meaningful options."
- source: Government Accounting Office testimony before the House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, May 1, 2007
Form Preparation Services (BPPs)
Bankruptcy Petition Preparers are non-lawyers paid
by consumers to prepare bankruptcy documents, for filing in court.
Anyone can be a BPP, provided they comply with the
BPP practice contained in the bankruptcy code.
Customers who use a BPP are representing themselves
in the bankruptcy court. This means they are responsible for making
the choices required of them in their case. They must also provide
the BPP with complete and accurate information to be entered in the
Because BPPs are not lawyers, their customers must
obtain necessary legal information and advice from an independent
source such as a self-help
law book or a lawyer.
Think of it this way, A BPP's customers are their own
lawyers and the BPP is their legal secretary. The customers have
to be sufficiently informed to tell the BPP what to do.
What BPPs Can't Do
Lawyers have jealously guarded their turf when it comes to bankruptcy.
Lawyers already lost this battle in the area of tax preparation.
Today, non-lawyer tax preparers openly advertise the good advice
they can give you in addition to completing your forms. BPPs can
do no such thing when it comes to bankruptcy forms.
Under the new bankruptcy law, BPPs
must give debtors a form that lists all the things BPPs can't
do (form B19), and all the topics they can't discuss -- basically
anything that might be characterized as legal advice. Thus, the
sort of tips that tax preparers commonly give to people when
preparing their taxes, BPPs can't give when bankruptcy forms.
|What BPPs can't do
(language of Form
is covered in HFB Book.
|I am forbidden
to offer you any legal advice, including advice
about any of the following:
to File For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy (HFB book) will not
give you specific advice, either, but it does discuss important
facts to consider in making these decisions:
|• whether to file a petition under the Bankruptcy Code
(11 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.);
||Whether you should file for bankruptcy
|• whether commencing a case under chapter 7, 11, 12,
or 13 is appropriate;
||What kind of bankruptcy you should file for
|• whether your debts will be eliminated or discharged
in a case under the Bankruptcy Code;
||Which debts are non-dischargeable, secured, etc.
||Ch's. 9, 5
|• whether you will be able to retain your home, car,
or other property after commencing a case
under the Bankruptcy Code;
|Whether you'll lose your house, car, or other property
||Chs. 3, 4, 5
|• concerning the tax consequences of a case brought
under the Bankruptcy Code;
|• concerning the dischargeability of tax claims;
||Whether or not your tax debts will be wiped out
|• whether you may or should promise to repay debts to
a creditor or enter into a reaffirmation
agreement with a creditor to reaffirm a debt;
|Which secured loans are worth hanging onto, versus
other options (e.g. surrendering property)
|• concerning how to characterize the nature of your
interests in property or your debts; or
||Whether property is exempt
into which exemption category a particular item fits
|Ch. 3, 4
|• concerning bankruptcy procedures and rights.
||What happens in bankruptcy; what are your rights
Online Bankruptcy Filing Advertised to Consumers
There are several software products designed for lawyers that will prepare full sets of bankruptcy forms, but these programs assume you already know bankruptcy law and are designed for filing multiple bankruptcies. In short, they're not appropriate for first-time bankruptcy filers.
There are also a few packages purportedly offered for consumers. Proceed with caution. Some of these packages are little more than PDF versions of the forms, which are are available free from the courts themselves.
If you are not a lawyer, the only value of these products would depend on the quality of the instructions they provide. You'll need instructions on how to complete each form, as well as a good understanding of how each form fits into the larger process of filing for bankruptcy.
A relative newcomer to online bankruptcy form preparation is a service geared toward self-helpers, called BKParaDox. It has licensed the Nolo bankruptcy book to be used as a resource in conjunction with their online bankruptcy form filling tools. One unique aspect to their product is that they've got an agreement with LegalHelpers, promising to credit the $200 cost of the online form preparation service if, after you've started, you decide you'd rather turn over your case to a lawyer retained via their affiliation with LegalHelpers.
So-Called "Full Service" Companies - Proceed with Caution
Some companies tout themselves as "full service" to
distinguish themselves from companies that only offer forms preparation. But they do not appear to be lawyers, so, by law, all they can do is forms preparation. Therefore it is unclear what "full service" actually includes, or what it CAN include under the strict guidelines preventing non-lawyers from providing bankruptcy advice.
Note that similar services to these have been found by courts to be BPPs and therefore subject to BPP fee limits and service limitations. To the extent that these services charge more than such limits, and the "advice" they give (by deciding where your information should go on the bankruptcy forms), may exceed what is allowed in your court district.
"Software" for consumers -- or is it?
Legal ($49). This "software" is actually
a zip file of MS Word and PDF forms that you can use or fill
in. The merchant's website does not say whether local forms are
included and whether or not forms do any calculations. This does
not appear to really be "software" but rather a package
of MS Word and PDF forms. (Note: before you pay for PDF bankruptcy forms, remember that PDF, fill-in bankruptcy forms are downloadable for free
from the government, your local bankruptcy court website, and here .) So what you're really
paying for is the instructions that come with
Step-by-Step Guidebooks to the Bankruptcy Process
How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
spending hundreds of dollars on bankruptcy services, take the time to
learn about what's involved in filing for bankruptcy, and determine exactly the kind of help you need. Nolo's How
to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy (17th ed., 2011) walks you through
the law and procedures of filing for bankruptcy, explains what bankruptcy
can -- and can't -- do for you, and tells you how to get the most from
your bankruptcy lawyer if you decide to hire one.