I want to be clear that there is no legal requirement to hire an attorney to represent you in your bankruptcy case. Since I am an attorney it is probably fairly easy to predict that, in my opinion, people should use an attorney to file bankruptcy. In this blog I wanted to put together some specific questions I think a person who is considering filing their own Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the Indianapolis area should ask themselves before filing a petition. I haven’t answered the questions. Instead, I have posed more questions. I haven’t answered because in order to properly answer these questions I would need to know a lot about your specific financial situation.
1. What type of bankruptcy should I file?
Do you know that there are 5 different bankruptcy chapters? Do you know the pros and cons to filing one versus the other? Do you realize that you likely do not qualify for all the different types of bankruptcy? Do you know which type of bankruptcy you will qualify for and how that is determined?
2. Do I stand to lose anything?
What are the exemptions in your state? Has your state opted out of the federal exemptions? Do you know how to claim an exemption? Do you know how to value your personal property properly on your petition?
3. Do I know how my filing bankruptcy might affect my friend or relative?
Do you have a co-signer? Have you repaid a friend or relative money you owed them in the past year? Do you know whether the trustee has the power to get that money back from the friend or relative?
4. Are you going to understand what happened at the 341 hearing?
How many 341 hearings have you been to? Do you know what questions will be asked? When the hearing ends will you know whether or not it was successful? Do you know whether or not there has been a determination that you will be able to discharge your debts?
5. Are you aware of the ramifications of misstating the truth on your bankruptcy petition?
Do you understand what all of the questions in a bankruptcy petition are asking so that you can make sure to answer them truthfully? Do you know whether you have a duty to change your bankruptcy petition if there are changes prior to your bankruptcy case closing?
6. Are you going to understand the notices you receive from the Court?
What is a motion for relief from stay and abandonment? Do you need to object? How do you object?
7. What is a reaffirmation agreement and should I sign one?
What exactly does a reaffirmation agreement mean? Can I negotiate the terms of the reaffirmation agreement? Do I just send the document back to the creditor or do I need to file it with the Court? Will the court take a paper copy or does the reaffirmation agreement need to be filed electronically? How do I file the reaffirmation agreement electronically?
8. The discharge order was entered. Are all of your debts gone?
Did your income tax liability get discharged? Did some years of your income tax lability get discharged? Did your student loans get discharged? What about your payday loan?
I could go on an on……but you get the point. To be clear, people do get discharges of their debts through Chapter 7 bankruptcy (most of them don’t make it through Chapter 13) without an attorney. However, in my experience they mess the bankruptcy filing up along the way and it takes quite a bit of time to fix. The 341 hearing for the typical pro se (without an attorney) filer is more painful for the debtor than with an attorney. In my experience, pro se debtors are a lot more likely to lose money that could have easily and ethically been protected. Often this can be as much or more than it would have cost to hire a bankruptcy attorney who has filed numerous bankruptcy petitions and attended numerous bankruptcy 341 hearings.
The bottom line is that the decision to file bankruptcy is a serious one, and if it is not done correctly you could stand to lose some of your property. If there is a determination of bankruptcy fraud you could certainly lose your freedom. Halcomb Singler offers free initial meetings with those who are considering bankruptcy. Please call us at (317) 575-8222 to schedule yours or click here to contact us.
Halcomb Singler, LLP, is a debt relief agency. It helps people file for bankruptcy under the bankruptcy code. No attorney-client relationship with the firm of Halcomb Singler, LLP, is created through this blog. Also, please note that Erika Singler is an attorney licensed in Indiana and does not seek to practice law in any jurisdiction in which they are not properly authorized to do so. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and should not be relied upon for the circumstances of any individual(s) or businesses.