Everyone in America has the right to represent themselves in court. In fact, this is true in bankruptcy. That means that you can file bankruptcy without a lawyer. Read on for more information!
Chapter 7 is Possible Without a Lawyer
Of the two main types of consumer bankruptcy, Chapter 7 is the easier of the two to complete on your own. Chapter 13 bankruptcies are very complex and require years of training to get right. For this reason, if you’re going to go it alone in bankruptcy, Chapter 7 is realistically possible without a lawyer.
Steps Through Bankruptcy
Here is a brief list of things that most debtors must do to successfully complete a basic Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.
- Gather required documents, such as pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, and your list of creditors
- Prepare your petition, schedules, and Statement of Financial Affairs
- Take your pre-filing credit counseling course
- File the Chapter 7 petition, schedules, and Statement of Financial Affairs
- Pay the required filing fee to the Court at the time of filing, request to pay the filing fee in installments, or request a filing fee waiver
- Send the required “521 Documents” to your assigned Bankruptcy Trustee in advance of your bankruptcy hearing
- Attend the “Meeting of Creditors.” The court schedules your Meeting of Creditors. You will receive notice of the date and time in the mail.
- Follow up with the Bankruptcy Trustee to satisfy any concerns after the Meeting of Creditors
- Take your post-filing bankruptcy debtor’s education course. Submit your certificate to the court.
- Wait for your discharge.
The steps are relatively straight forward, but missing a step or completing documents incorrect can have adverse consequences.
For instance, failing to file the post-filing bankruptcy debtor’s education course with the court will result in the case being dismissed without a discharge. The only way to fix that mistake is to re-open the bankruptcy to file the certificate. The court will charge a $260 filing fee just to do this!
Caution: Loss of Property is Can Happen in Chapter 7
The scary thing for pro se debtors in Chapter 7 is the loss of property. The bankruptcy code describes Chapter 7 as a “liquidation.” This means that the court is empowered to seize and sell property belonging to the bankruptcy filer. The court uses the proceeds to pay down the debtor’s bills.
Note that “property” doesn’t just refer to houses and land. Property means everything that belongs to the bankruptcy filer. This includes intangible assets such as tax refunds, lawsuits, or money owed to the debtor.
If the bankruptcy filer doesn’t apply the right bankruptcy “exemptions,” or they don’t have enough exemptions, loss of property is very real in a Chapter 7.
Of course I want you to consider hiring my firm for your bankruptcy. Please contact us at (916) 333-2222 to schedule a consultation today!