Filing bankruptcy without a lawyer can provide relief from wage garnishments, medical bills and credit card debt. Not only can you save hundreds of dollars, you can manage your bankruptcy process.
Each year thousands of people file their Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia without a lawyer. The bankruptcy courts refer to this as a pro se bankruptcy case.
Although the bankruptcy from preparation process can be quick, Chapter 7 bankruptcy laws are complicated. This is especially true if you don’t understand how bankruptcy works.
Thinking about filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy without a lawyer? Learn the rules so you won’t make these 10 mistakes.
Mistake #1: Ignoring Notices From the Bankruptcy Court
When you file bankruptcy, the court will send notices to your mailing address. Typically, the bankruptcy court notifies filers of upcoming meetings. You will also receive a notice if the court needs more information or is planning to dismiss your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
The court provides ample time to respond to the letters. In many instances, you’ll have 14 days to take action. That’s why it’s important to check and open your mail every day.
Please know that the court won’t send reminders to respond to the letters. If you don’t answer the notices, they will dismiss your case. Filing bankruptcy without a lawyer requires you to respond to the courts by the deadlines.
Mistake # 2: Missing Deadlines to Pay Installments for Filing Fees
When you file bankruptcy, you have three options to pay the filing fee. Pay it in full. Apply for a court waiver. Or pay the bankruptcy court filing fee in installments.
The best part about paying your fee in installments is you get to choose the payment dates. Once the bankruptcy judge approves your request, you make the payments on each date that you select.
Unlike your bill from the cable company, you won’t get reminders from the court. It’s up to you to make the payments on the due dates.
If you miss a payment, your trustee will file a motion to dismiss your case. Be sure to make every effort to pay your installment on time.
Mistake #3: Thinking Bankruptcy Is an Easy Process
Filing bankruptcy is serious business. The process involves different laws, procedures and deadlines. If you don’t pay attention to each step, you could make a mistake.
Some cases aren’t as complicated as others. This is especially true if you don’t own real estate or have lots of money in the bank. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Mistake #4: Failing to Learn About the Process Before Filing Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer
An experienced bankruptcy lawyer is a good person to have on your team. You’ll have a knowledgeable professional on your team.
Can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer? You have the option of submitting your forms as a pro se bankruptcy filer.
Learn as much as you can if you decide to file bankruptcy without a lawyer. From NOLO to AllLaw, there are plenty of resources to guide you through the process.
Mistake #5: Getting Bankruptcy Advice From Friends and Family Members
Unless your friends and family members are bankruptcy lawyers, you shouldn’t rely on them for advice. It’s likely that they don’t have a professional knowledge of the law.
Base your decisions on advice from legal professionals and experts. Contact local legal aid societies or pro bono lawyers if you have questions. With a quick internet search, you can get access to free or low-cost legal help in Maryland, D.C. or Virginia.
Mistake #6: Not Consulting With a Lawyer Before Making a Decision to File
Discuss your situation with a bankruptcy attorney before you file. A lawyer can help you understand how bankruptcy will affect you.
Many lawyers offer free consultations by phone or in person. Schedule an appointment to learn more about the process.
There’s no substitute for the advice of bankruptcy lawyers. They have the experience and training to give you solid advice.
Mistake #7: Signing and Filing Forms That They Didn't Read
Even if you hire a bankruptcy form preparer to complete your forms, you are still responsible for what’s on them. That’s why you should read every form before you sign it.
Review the forms to determine that the information is correct. Forms with incorrect information can cause the bankruptcy trustee to suspect bankruptcy fraud.
When you sign the forms, you’ll be doing so under the penalty of perjury. Your trustee will contact you – not your bankruptcy preparer – with questions about your form.
Mistake #8: Asking Their Bankruptcy Form Preparer for Help Throughout the Bankruptcy Process
Here’s what most people don’t understand about bankruptcy form preparers. We are not lawyers. That means we cannot provide any type of assistance other than filling out your bankruptcy forms.
It is illegal for your bankruptcy form preparer to assist you after you file bankruptcy. At Prepare My Chapter 7, we are happy to prepare your Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms. However, we can’t assist you throughout the process.
Bankruptcy form preparers can get into trouble by providing legal advice. Practicing law without a license is a serious offense. The United States Bankruptcy Court can fine or imprison us for providing legal guidance.
Mistake #9: Forgetting to Include Creditors on Their Bankruptcy Forms
The primary purpose for filing bankruptcy without a lawyer is to eliminate your debts. This will give you the fresh start that you need.
Before you file bankruptcy, you must make a list of every person or company that you owe. That way, your document preparer can include your creditors on your bankruptcy forms.
After you file, the court will notify your creditors about your bankruptcy. If you forget to include a creditor, the debt may not be discharged. You may be required to pay the bill because the creditor wasn’t notified.
Mistake #10: Not Taking the Process Seriously
Filing bankruptcy without a lawyer impacts your credit and other areas of your life. You shouldn’t approach bankruptcy with a carefree attitude. It is a serious procedure that requires attention to detail and commitment.
Some people don’t have successful outcomes because they aren’t serious about the process. As a result, they miss important deadlines or omit important information.
Going through a bankruptcy process requires your full attention. Take time to understand your roles and responsibilities.
Gather important documents and submit them to the court on time. Put a hundred percent effort into the entire process.
This blog post is sponsored by Prepare My Chapter 7. We prepare Chapter 7 bankruptcy forms for people who file bankruptcy in Maryland, D.C. or Virginia (and a few other states) without a lawyer.
Explore the Prepare My Chapter 7 website to learn more about our non-attorney bankruptcy preparation services.