Consumer Law Center of Maryland
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Why It’s Important to Hire an Attorney For Your Bankruptcy Filing

Files bankruptcy

It can be tempting to try and handle a bankruptcy on your own, without getting a lawyer. It’s just a matter of filling out some forms and turning your records over to the court, right? Not exactly. Neglecting to hire an attorney can lead to dismissal of your case or loss of important assets, and can end up costing you more money should you eventually have to hire an attorney to refile. Of course, part of the reason that you’re likely filing bankruptcy is because you are in financial dire straits, and it may feel like hiring an attorney is a luxury that you cannot afford. However, hiring an attorney to handle your bankruptcy filing is an investment in your future financial well-being.

  • From the initial petition, to asset valuation, to the means test, the process is complex

Completing even your initial bankruptcy petition—the forms that get your bankruptcy action started—requires an understanding of federal bankruptcy laws and rules. The requirements to provide complete, accurate answers on your bankruptcy petition have become increasingly strict, and failing to submit a properly completed petition could result in having your bankruptcy petition rejected.

Even federal bankruptcy judges acknowledge that filing a bankruptcy pro se (on your own) is not advisable. In a written opinion, Bankruptcy Court Chief Judge Gregory Kishel wrote, “The number of abstruse pre- and post-filing issues is now considerable. They are both functional in nature… and legal… All of this is best, most safely, and most predictably handled through representation by a licensed attorney.”

  • Bankruptcy petition preparers aren’t attorneys, and they can’t offer legal advice or support

When you don’t think you can afford to hire an attorney, it may seem like a good compromise to instead hire a bankruptcy petition preparer. These companies hold themselves out as a comparable, but cheaper, alternative to hiring a lawyer. However, they are not permitted under the law to offer you any legal advice, including whether you should file under Chapter 7 or 13, what assets you should exclude or include in your bankruptcy, and how your assets should be valued. Without any legal education or duties to a bar association or court, these organizations simply aren’t equipped to walk you through the entire bankruptcy process.

  • An attorney can help you make the right decisions about how to structure your ongoing debt to promote your best interests

In contrast to bankruptcy petition preparers, bankruptcy attorneys will be at your side from start to finish, able to handle every aspect of your bankruptcy petition. Additionally, bankruptcy attorneys will be able to advise you on whether or not you should consider options aside from bankruptcy to address your financial situation. You can rest assured that an attorney will understand the nuanced legal requirements of completing a bankruptcy petition, and can advise you as to which assets are best to include in your petition. Working with an attorney will also mean that you will have legal support should a creditor make a motion arguing that a debt is not dischargeable, or should a trustee allege that you have committed fraud. Attempting to go it alone and subsequently hiring an attorney to fix everything that went wrong will end up taking more time and costing more in the long run than hiring an attorney at the start.

If you are in need of legal counsel to file a personal bankruptcy petition in Maryland, contact the experienced Germantown consumer law and bankruptcy law firm Haeger Law at 888-463-3520.