When you are facing financial struggles, it is natural to want to save money in any way you can. As a result, many people consider representing themselves in a personal bankruptcy filing. However, this can be a daunting task for somebody who does not know the law or courtroom procedure. The other options are to work with a bankruptcy petition preparer or an attorney.
Most people assume that a bankruptcy petition preparer is similar to a lawyer, but less expensive. However, there are many important differences between the two. As indicated by the name, a bankruptcy petition preparer is somebody who takes the financial information you provide and prepares your Chapter 7, 11 or 13 petition for filing with the court. Once that task is completed, his or her involvement in your case is over. A petition preparer cannot practice law, which means you are not provided any legal advice and you are not represented during your case. In fact, it is likely the petition preparer is unable to answer questions about your filing, which means you are basically left on your own. To quote Judge Jenneman, the Chief Bankruptcy Judge for the Middle District of Florida, “A bankruptcy petition preparer can meet a prospective debtor, provide forms or questionnaires for the debtor to complete without any assistance from the bankruptcy petition preparer, transcribe the information supplied by the prospective debtor on the applicable bankruptcy forms without change, correction, or alteration, copy the pleadings, and gather all necessary related pleadings to file with the bankruptcy court. The bankruptcy petition preparer cannot improve upon the prospective debtor’s answers, cannot counsel the client on options, and cannot otherwise provide legal assistance to the prospective debtor, directly or indirectly. However, to the extent the bankruptcy petition preparer provides the limited secretarial-type services, the preparer is entitled to receive reasonable compensation.” Leigh R. Meininger, Trustee, Plaintiff, v. Stacey Burnworth, Paralegal Paperworks, Inc., Defendants, Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Regarding the Determination of Reasonable Fees of Bankruptcy Petition Preparer, pages 3-4 (Adversary No. 99-00174).
An attorney has the training, knowledge and authority to fully represent your best interests throughout your entire case. Your lawyer will not only prepare your petition and other required pleadings, but he or she will also answer your questions, provide you with legal advice, and attend all hearings throughout your case. A seasoned bankruptcy lawyer will anticipate any complications that may arise in your filing, which will save you time and money. In fact, most debtors with assets who attempt to represent themselves end up spending much more money than they would have spent if they had retained an attorney in the first place!
To learn how we can save you money and protect your best interests in a personal bankruptcy filing, call us to schedule a free consultation.