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Why Trying To File A Bankruptcy On Your Own Is A Bad Idea

  • By: Christopher Benson
  • Published: November 4, 2014

You are a do-it-yourselfer. You do your own taxes. Home Depot is your favorite store. So when it comes to bankruptcy, can you really do it yourself? Although businesses and individuals filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy must have representation, it is possible to file Chapters 7 and 13 yourself.

It is also possible for you to fly your own airplane without any training or practice. The landing might be a little tricky, but, you can figure that out when the time is right.

It is also possible for you to stand in the middle of the freeway at night wearing dark clothes in a rainstorm with your eyes closed.

There is a a big difference between what you “can” do and what is a good idea.

But what are the pros and cons of filing bankruptcy yourself?

Pros of filing bankruptcy without an Attorney:

  • You might save some money. You definitely won’t save any time. You definitely won’t save any hassle. You have to spend extra time researching what you have to do and what time lines apply. You also have to research all the different laws that apply concerning creditor rights, garnishments, motions to avoid liens, applicable exemptions and on and on and on. There also no way for you to possibly figure out all of the different legal rights and laws that apply in a short time. It takes years to figure out the laws and process even for an experienced attorney.
    • Here’s a little clue…there are a very limited number of attorneys who do bankruptcy work. Do you know why? Because experienced lawyers know that navigating the bankruptcy process is complicated with numerous timelines and deadlines. The ramification of messing up a bankruptcy filing is dismissal and no financial relief. So why take the risk?

That completes the list of benefits of filing a bankruptcy on your own. Now let’s look at some of the risks of filing without an attorney:

Cons of filing bankruptcy without an Attorney:

  • The success rate is much lower. Those filing without an attorney experience a much lower success rate than petitioners who file using a bankruptcy attorney. In a random 2010 sampling, one blogger found that about 11 percent of Chapter 7 petitioners filed without an attorney, and about 13 percent of Chapter 13 petitioners filed pro se. However, success rates for these individuals were around 30 percent at the highest.
    • Success rates when using a bankruptcy attorney are closer to 95 percent.
  • Your discharge could be denied. If your discharge is denied, you don’t receive any bankruptcy protections. Your wages could be garnished, property can be repossessed, and creditors may continue calling you.
  • You could make a mistake that is misconstrued as fraud. The penalties for bankruptcy fraud vary from denial of discharge and fines, to criminal charges and jail time. The bankruptcy code is over 500 pages, and the government website on bankruptcy recommends becoming very familiar with it before you attempt to file on your own if you want to avoid penalties for mistakes.
  • If your discharge is denied, you still have to pay court costs, and then you may have to get an attorney anyway. Filing bankruptcy without an attorney is a gamble that could pay off. But it’s not likely. And if it doesn’t, you’ll be paying for everything twice.

Here is the reality, the cost of hiring an experienced bankruptcy lawyer is minimal compared to the financial relief your will actually receive when your case is handled right. Hiring an experienced bankruptcy attorney saves you time because the attorney will efficiently guide you through the process. Hiring an experienced bankruptcy attorney will make sure that your rights are protected so that you can get a fresh start.

Over the past 23 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