Do I Need an Attorney to File Bankruptcy?
Yes, you should have an attorney to file bankruptcy. The law does not require it, but common sense suggests that an experienced bankruptcy lawyer is necessary. Would you bet your home in a poker game without knowing the rules? Would you risk losing your entire retirement by betting it on a horse race without having years of experience watching horse races and betting on winners?
Filing bankruptcy is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. By filing bankruptcy you hope to rid yourself of tens of thousands of dollars of debt or to save your home from foreclosure. In the process of bankruptcy, you will open yourself and your finances to inspection by your creditors and the court. Years of helping hundreds of intelligent, well meaning people has taught me that the ordinary person does not always understand what is being asked for in a bankruptcy proceeding. For example, what does it mean to “list all other property, other than property transferred in the ordinary course of the business or financial affairs of the debtor, transferred either absolutely or as security within two years immediately preceding the commencement of this case?” That just one of the questions asked of you in the Statement of Financial Affairs filed with every bankruptcy case.
Experienced attorneys do not always agree what that language means. If you have signed affirming that “I declare under penalty of perjury that I have read the answers contained in the foregoing statement of financial affairs and any attachments thereto and that they are true and correct,” then the courts will assume that you understood it, and you could be subjected to serious court action if you answer the question incompletely or incorrectly.
Bankruptcy is a demanding and technical process that is subject to precise deadlines and notice requirements. Failure to follow the rules and meet the deadlines can result in dismissal of your case. Proper presentation of your financial information requires an understanding of legal concepts and terminology. Failure to disclose financial information correctly can result in denial of a discharge of debt, a needless loss of property, and in the worst case criminal prosecution.
The rules are complicated and the downside of failure is too great to attempt bankruptcy without expert, professional assistance. An experienced Colorado bankruptcy attorney knows the rules and the practical ins and outs of the process. Bankruptcy petition preparers, and other services that rely upon non-lawyers to assist in your bankruptcy, do not know the rules and do not have the experience that you need.
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The statements of law made here are general statements of law, effective at the time published and subject to change from time to time. These statements are not intended, nor may they be construed, to be applicable to any particular set of factual circumstances nor to any particular person. I recommend that all readers seek the assistance and advice of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer for guidance in their particular circumstances.
© Copyright 2013 David C. Hoskins, licensed Colorado lawyer