Can I file bankruptcy without an attorney?

Yes, as a legal matter, you can file bankruptcy without an attorney. Termed a "pro se filing", many people across the country file without hiring a bankruptcy lawyer, particularly under chapter 7. The primary benefit to filing without an attorney is saving the out of pocket costs of hiring an attorney in chapter 7, or slightly reducing the plan payment in chapter 13. In return, there are a number of risks and drawbacks:

  • There is a risk of failing to claim all exemptions available to a debtor under state and federal law, resulting in loss of property.
  • Some pro se debtors may fail to list all property, resulting in harsh penalties, including loss of the property and denial of the bankruptcy discharge.
  • Improper listing of creditors may result in a debt not being discharged, i.e. surviving the bankruptcy.
  • Pro se debtors are more likely to have to appear in front of a bankruptcy judge to explain items in their filing.
  • There is an observed lower success rate of pro se debtors completing chapter 13 plans and obtaining a fresh financial start.

In additional to preparation of your bankruptcy petition, a knowledgable bankruptcy attorney, such as Erich Fabricius, can advise you on how to fully and correctly respond to the questions in the bankruptcy schedules, advise you on timing of the filing and pre-bankruptcy financial planning, will be beside you at court hearings and meetings of creditors, and can react and respond to issues that may arise in your bankruptcy case. Bankruptcy is a formal legal process which substantially affects both the debtor's and the creditors' rights, and can quickly become complex litigation when unusual issues arise. Hiring an attorney after a problem arises tends to be considerable more expensive than avoiding the potential problems to begin with.

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This question-and-answer post is made available for educational and informational purposes only and to promote a general understanding of the law, and not to provide specific legal advice. In order to provide a concise response, the author must make certain assumptions about the ordinariness of the situation underlying the question posed, assumptions which may not apply to your real circumstances. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Reading this post is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice based on the unique facts of your situation from an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. No representation is made regarding the currentness of the information contained in this post. Examples that may be provided in this post are merely for illustrative purposes; the results in your case may be different and no results are guaranteed.