Can I file bankruptcy without a lawyer?

File a bankruptcy on your own?

So I have touched on this topic in prior posts but I get asked this question from time to time: Can I file bankruptcy without a lawyer?  My reply is usually you can but why would you want too?  You need to know that filing personal bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 takes careful preparation and detailed understanding of legal issues. Misunderstandings of the law or making mistakes in the process can affect your rights. You cant just say oops I made a mistake so forgive me I’m not a lawyer since if you represent yourself you will be held to the same standard as a lawyer.  Also you need to know that court employees and bankruptcy judges are prohibited by law from offering legal advice.

The following is a list of ways a lawyer can help you with your case:
-Advise you on whether to file a bankruptcy petition.
-Advise you under which chapter to file.
-Advise you on whether your debts can be discharged.
-Advise you on whether or not you will be able to keep your home, car, or other property after you file.
-Advise you of the tax consequences of filing.
-Advise you on whether you should continue to pay creditors.
-Explain bankruptcy law and procedures to you.
-Help you complete and file forms.
-Assist you with most aspects of your bankruptcy case.

Pro se litigants (those are people representing themselves) are expected to follow the rules and procedures in federal courts and should be familiar with the United States Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and the local rules of the court (for Utah here they are) in which the case is filed. Local rules, along with other useful information, are posted on the court’s website and are available at the local court’s intake counter.

If you file bankruptcy pro se, you may be offered services by non-attorney petition preparers. By law, preparers can only enter information into forms. They are prohibited from providing legal advice, explaining answers to legal questions, or assisting you in bankruptcy court. A petition preparer must sign all documents they prepare for you; print their name, address and social security on the documents; and provide you with a copy of all documents. They cannot sign documents on your behalf or receive payment for court fees.

As you know I am a strong advocate of using an attorney to do your bankruptcy.  I know this sounds self serving but I have worked in the courts and in private practice and those what represent themselves loose much more than they save by doing a DIY bankruptcy.  At least speak with an attorney to know what you are getting into if you are thinking about doing this on your own.

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