The Perils of a DIY Bankruptcy

December 28, 2009

Federal law guarantees open access to the courts and permits self representation in lawsuits, including bankruptcy proceedings. However, the most important question is not “can you,” but “should you” represent yourself in a bankruptcy case.

Proceeding pro se (Latin meaning “for himself”) in a bankruptcy case is like navigating a mine field while blindfolded. Is it possible to be successful? Sure! Will your bankruptcy case blow up? Probably. Books and internet resources simply cannot substitute for competent legal advice. Below are a few reasons why a pro se bankruptcy is a bad idea:

Reason 1: The Federal Bankruptcy Code is complex.

Reason 2: The Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure are complex (and changing as of December 1, 2009).

Reason 3: The bankruptcy court’s local rules are complex.

Reason 4: The applicability of state law to federal bankruptcy law is complex, including state exemption laws, state criminal laws, and state collection laws.

Reason 5:  The bankruptcy trustee will examine your case more closely since you are not represented by counsel. The trustee will likely put you at the end of the 341 meeting docket to have extra time to review your bankruptcy case and ask questions.

Reason 6: Most skilled bankruptcy attorneys will not step into the middle of a pro se case when things go wrong.

Reason 7: Are you really qualified to answer important questions, like: “When should you file?” “What chapter should you file?”

Reason 8: Most courts will not allow a pro se bankruptcy debtor to file documents electronically through the court’s internet ECF system.

Reason 9: You can be audited by a CPA firm selected by the Department of Justice.

Reason 10: Occasionally the pro se case is such a chaotic mess that the debtor is forced to dismiss the bankruptcy and later re-file with the assistance of an attorney. That’s two bankruptcies on your credit report for the price of one!

Reason 11: If you are reaffirming a debt, you must appear in open court and answer the bankruptcy judge’s questions.

The upside of representing yourself is saving a few dollars. The downside is a considerable risk to your property, your future finances, and, in extreme cases, your liberty. Don’t risk your family’s well-being! Let an experienced bankruptcy attorney guide you through your bankruptcy case.

For free legal advice from a Texas bankruptcy lawyer, contact Fears | Nachawati today. Simply email us or phone us toll free at 1.866.705.7584.

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