Some people can’t afford to hire a bankruptcy attorney. Others think they can save a few thousand dollars by “filling in the blanks” themselves. When someone files for bankruptcy without an attorney they are filing pro se. Petitions filed by pro se debtors are usually filled with errors, often leading to disastrous results for the debtor. Forfeited property (including homes), denied discharge and the failure to discharge certain debts are common.
Bankruptcy law includes an entire title of the United States Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and secured transactions… not to mention case law which gives meaning to the aforementioned statutes.
Bankruptcy is not as simple as filling in the blanks.
Still don’t want to hire an attorney? Then avoid these common mistakes…
Exempt Your Property
The success of your bankruptcy (and whether you can protect your property) will depend in part upon the appropriate application and citation of California exemptions. In chapter 7 bankruptcy your Sacramento bankruptcy attorney (or you) must select the exemption scheme that can protect the majority of your property. If you own a house with equity the bankruptcy attorney will probably use 704 exemptions, and if you don’t own a home the attorney will probably use 703 exemptions. Once an exemption scheme is selected the bankruptcy attorney must adequately cite the exemption in your schedules. For many clients filing chapter 7 bankruptcy this process will result in all property being protected from sale. If everything goes to plan, you will keep all of your property and receive a discharge of your debts.
Take Credit Counseling
There’s not a lot to say about credit counseling. In brief, you must complete credit counseling from an approved provider. Do yourself a favor and complete this easy step before filing bankruptcy.
Protect Your Discharge
Many people filing bankruptcy without a bankruptcy attorney have a creditor object to their discharge. The Bankruptcy Code contains important time frames that can give rise to the nondiscahrgeability of certain debts. Have you received a payday loan 70 days before filing bankruptcy? Used a credit card 90 days before filing? If you have tax debt, does your filed return count as a “tax return” as defined by the Bankruptcy Code and 9th Circuit case law? (hint, the date of your filed tax return and assessment by the IRS are important).
A bankruptcy attorney will help you avoid problem time frames to avoid nondischargeability actions by creditors. Also, creditors may be reluctant to initiate an adversary proceeding against a debtor represented by a bankruptcy attorney.
The easiest way to avoid common bankruptcy mistakes is to hire a Sacramento bankruptcy attorney. Simply put, filing bankruptcy is NOT as simple as “filling in the blanks.” A bankruptcy attorney can help you avoid problem timelines, protect your property and ensure that your debts are discharged.