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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Do I Need An Attorney To File Bankruptcy?

Do I Need An Attorney To File Bankruptcy?

Do you need an attorney to file bankruptcy?

If you are an individual, technically, no.

Is it a good idea to file a bankruptcy case without an attorney?

No.

Why?

Because bankruptcy law is hard. It is full of arbitrary rules, complex procedures, and odd results.

I have been practicing restructuring law almost exclusively for fourteen years. Have you heard of the 10,000-hour rule and how it takes about 10,000 hours to become and expert in something? I probably am in my fourth set of 10,000 hours. And I still learn something new about bankruptcy law most days. Even the brightest of folks cannot get up to speed on bankruptcy law in one case. So you probably shouldn't try it. 

What will happen if you file your own bankruptcy without an attorney?

Maybe nothing. Maybe you'll still get your discharge and everything will be fine.

Or maybe you won't know which assets are exempt, not schedule them properly, and have the trustee try to take something you could keep.

Or maybe you'll omit a creditor and not have that debt discharged.

Or maybe you'll omit an asset and have the trustee bring an action to deny your discharge. If that action succeeds, you face the prospect of having your debts become permanently barred from discharge. That's a very high price to pay.

Under current bankruptcy law, you are eligible for a chapter 7 discharge only once about every eight years. That's a long time between bites at the apple.

If you enjoy risk and won't mind if you don't get your debts discharged, feel free to try to file your case by yourself. Otherwise, call an experienced, competent bankruptcy attorney.

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