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A Simple Guide to Filing Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer

Posted In:  debt reduction

When you file for individual bankruptcy, the lawyer's role is to make sure you follow the proper procedures and fill out the paperwork correctly. It is possible to file your own bankruptcy claim without paying for an expensive lawyer as long as you take the time to research the rules and requirements before you approach the court.


File Properly

Filing for bankruptcy on your own requires a great deal of attention to detail. You will need to complete all the appropriate paperwork and follow all the proper procedures the first time you file. It is possible to lose your rights in future filings if you make a mistake in your initial bankruptcy process. If your case is dismissed because you neglected to file a single piece of paperwork, you may not be allowed to file again. Filing without an attorney can be unwise if you have neither the time nor the organizational skills to comply properly with all the technical rules the first time.


Choose a Paralegal Instead of an Attorney

A less expensive way to approach bankruptcy without a lawyer is to hire a paralegal instead. Bankruptcy lawyers do not typically handle the day-to-day paperwork of their cases. Paralegals take care of the technical details and make sure all is in order so lawyers can step in at the last minute and make official filings. You can receive the same expertise and service by hiring a paralegal without the high fees of a bankruptcy attorney if you need legal assistance when filing.


Research Local Court Rules

The first step in filing for bankruptcy without a lawyer is to learn about your local court's procedural rules. Every state has its own specific ways of handling individual court cases. You can find details about your state's procedures on the state or city website. Study these rules carefully so you will not be surprised once you begin the filing process. If you are prepared to follow the rules precisely, you will have an easier time handling the rest of your bankruptcy filing. In addition, there is less chance that your case will be thrown out due to a technicality.


Attend Required Credit Counseling

All states require that individuals who file for personal bankruptcy attend some form of credit counseling at least 180 days before filing. You will need to obtain the list of approved credit counseling services at your local courthouse. It will only waste time and money if you attend counseling at a location not approved by the court. Once you complete the counseling, you will be allowed to go forward with the rest of the filing procedure. The court will require you to present written proof of successful completion of credit counseling.


Disclose all Debts

The majority of the paperwork you will file involves full disclosure of your debt. It is important to list every single debt and every type of income clearly on these forms. If a judge believes you intentionally left something out or changed amounts in any way, you could find yourself facing federal fraud charges. Destroying property or documents related to your financial situation can also be considered debt fraud. If you do not list a specific debt, that debt may not be discharged by the court.


Purchase Online Bankruptcy Software

New technology has made it easier to file for bankruptcy without a lawyer's assistance. You can buy online bankruptcy software that will walk you through the process, step by step, until it is time to file your documentation with your local court. Some online bankruptcy filing services will do the work for you. You can send your financial information to the service through the Internet, and a few days later receive the completed paperwork ready for filing. These services can be pricey, but they are less expensive than hiring an attorney.


Be Aware of Fees

Even though you file for bankruptcy because you cannot pay off your debts, you are required to pay court filing fees and the credit counseling fee. It is possible to petition for a waiver of the credit counseling costs if you are in serious financial straits. You will still be responsible for the court fees, however. Do some research of the costs of filing for bankruptcy to avoid surprised by the fees during the process of filing with the courts. Careful preparation is the key to filing a successful bankruptcy claim.

Jessica Bosari is a freelance writer and blogger for various publications and her own blog. You can read more of Jessica's work here. If you have any comments or questions about SavingTools or about saving money, leave your comments in the form below or email Thanks!


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