Do I need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 19, 2018

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Although it is possible to file bankruptcy without a lawyer, it is not recommended. It is best to file Chapter 7 bankrutpcy with the help of an experienced attorney, while filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy is even more complicated and most likely cannot be done by someone without the knowledge of a bankruptcy attorney. In general, your chances of a more smooth, successful filing are increased if you hire an attorney.

Free or Low-Cost Consultations

You may be able to find an attorney who will give you a free or low-cost initial consultation by contacting a local bar association or lawyer referral service – both can be found with an online search. If you have very limited or no funds to out toward an attorney, there may be a legal aid office in your area that can locate someone to represent you for free. It’s worth looking into. 

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Chapter 13 Filings – An Attorney Is Crucial

While ordinary people can sometimes handle a very simple Chapter 7 case on their own, without an attorney, the average person who is not a laywer probably cannot handle a Chapter 13 case pro se, or without a lawyer. These cases require close attention to detail in drafting a debt repayment plan, negotiating with creditors and with the Chapter 13 trustee’s office, and can get complicated along the way. If paperwork is not filed correctly, a filing can be dismissed and another bankruptcy won’t be able to be filed for a specified amount of time. 

If you own a home or other very valuable property, it’s a very bad idea to represent yourself in a bankruptcy case under any chapter. You might save a couple of thousand dollars in attorney’s fees only to learn that you’ve made a mistake that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

For more information about when to hire a bankruptcy attorney, how to find one, and what to expect, visit our Bankruptcy Lawyer section

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