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Can I File A Chapter 7 Or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Without A Lawyer?

  • By: Christopher Benson
  • Published: May 8, 2014

When filing bankruptcy, you are required to have an attorney to represent your corporation or partnership. But if you are filing Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy as an individual, it is permissible to file on your own. It’s called Pro Se bankruptcy. But, it is a good idea?

Here is an analogy to attempting to file a bankruptcy on your own:

I’ve flown as a passenger on an airplane many times. It doesn’t look too hard. You just sit in the cockpit on the left hand side, push the throttle levers all the way forward and when you think you are going fast enough, you just pull the steering wheel in front of you back and….whoosh… off you go into the wild blue yonder. Then you just steer the thing in the direction you want to go. Landing looks a little tricky, but, we will just figure that out when we get there.

Is that a chance you want to take?

Personally, I don’t want to take that chance. Therefore, I buy a ticket and pay someone who knows what they are doing to get me there quickly and better yet….safely.

Here are five very good reason that you should not attempt to file a bankruptcy on your own.

  1. Pre-filing requirements must be met before you can even file bankruptcy. You have to learn what all the requirements are, in what order they must be met, and what has to be done to meet them. Without these requirements met, your filing is in vain.
  2. You might commit fraud without knowing it. Certain acts that you wouldn’t even think twice about, such as selling something, giving items or loaning money to relatives preceding or following a bankruptcy filing, are considered criminal acts of fraud.
  3. You could lose valuable assets. The bankruptcy code is complicated—more than 500 pages of law that got innumerably more complicated after revisions to the code in 2005 that made it harder to discharge some types of debt. Not being familiar with the law in an intimate way means you can’t benefit from it fully.
  4. You must prepare a means test. The means test is a complex analysis of your income and expenses, and it’s used in the most vital and rudimentary aspect of a bankruptcy proceeding; you can’t file bankruptcy if you don’t know which chapter you are filing. The means test determines this, and if you get it wrong, your case is dismissed.
  5. If you fail, your credit will suffer, but you won’t get any benefit. At any point you can encounter a fatal error in your filing that could cause you to go back to square one. And that doesn’t come without cost—a dismissal still affects your credit rating, yet you don’t get the protection, debt discharge, or the benefit of the automatic stay that comes with a bankruptcy filing.

Pro Se bankruptcies have a 50 percent failure rate. Success isn’t impossible, but it’s not probable, either.

Why take the chance when you can meet with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer for free to find out your options?

If you are already having financial problems, why would you risk making things worse and causing more difficulty in your life? Attempting to file a bankruptcy on your own just does not make any sense.

Over the past 27 years, the Law Offices of Christopher A. Benson has helped over 2,300 of Washington clients take control of their financial situation. We can stop your garnishment and change your monthly payments for all your combined unsecured debt, and if you have had more than $600 garnished within the last 90 days, we can get all of the money back in most cases. But you have to act quickly–call (253) 815-6940 for your free consultation, or email us today. Evening and weekend appointments available.

Christopher Benson

About the Author Chris served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity
Seattle/S. King County for 10 years and served as Vice President
of the organization during part of that time. Read More