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 for the .
- 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 trustee assigned to your case 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.