You're not required to use a lawyer to file for bankruptcy. However, not everyone is cut out for do-it-yourself law. When it comes to complex forms, tight deadlines, and piles of details, you may prefer to hire a lawyer to help you get through the process.
Whether you're a good candidate for going it alone depends on the complexity of your financial situation and your willingness to take the time to learn the rules of bankruptcy. You'll need to complete the work carefully and on time, meeting 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 discussion, see Do I Need Lawyer?)
What a Bankruptcy Lawyer Does
There are many ways a lawyer can help you file for bankruptcy. For example, a qualified lawyer can help you:
- Classify exempt property.
- Answer questions about debt and expenses on the means test.
- Decide whether bankruptcy is the best solution for your particular situation.
- Organize your relevant financial details into the appropriate forms.
- Meet all filing requirements and deadlines for your local court.
- Analyze whether you qualify for lien avoidance, and decide when to use it.
- Untangle complicated property ownership issues with jointly owned property and divorce.
- Decide if a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the right option for you.
- Write a Chapter 13 plan that the trustee assigned to your case will accept.
- Get local knowledge about what your trustee generally allows when it comes to "reasonable" expenses.
Find a Good Bankruptcy Lawyer
Like tax law, family law, or personal injury 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 bankruptcy court.
For an experienced lawyer, most bankruptcies are routine. Chances are 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, the amount and type of your 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. Do your homework and comparison shop before you hire someone to represent you.
For resources to help you find a good attorney, see How to Find a Bankruptcy Lawyer in .