I’ve written before about filing bankruptcy without a lawyer, and said that while you can file without a lawyer, you shouldn’t. But some people’s situations are such that they need bankruptcy relief but just can’t afford to pay the legal fees. In recognition of that fact of life, we’ll be doing a series of posts, starting today, to walk you through the process of filing without a lawyer. Formally, it’s called filing pro se, which is Latin for “in one’s own behalf.”
Pro se options
One of the first decisions a person must make about filing pro se is whether to do it completely on her own or whether to use a bankruptcy preparation service. Doing it completely on one’s own mean filing out each of the various forms (and there are a lot!) by yourself. Using a bankruptcy preparation service means hiring a person to fill out the forms for you. Regardless, the debtor is responsible in either case for making sure the right information gets on the right form. Bankruptcy preparers can’t give legal advice; they can’t tell the debtor what exemptions she can claim; or whether a certain debt should be listed as priority, secured, unsecured, contingent, liquidated, or disputed; or help in any way. The preparer can only put down exactly what the debtor tells him to put down, and where the debtor tells him to put it. Once the preparer’s job of filling out the forms is finished, he is out of the picture.
What are the Steps?
We’ll have a post about every step you must take to file bankruptcy pro se. Here’s a roadmap of what we’ll cover:
• Determining whether you qualify for Chapter 7 (the Means Test)
• Different types of debt: priority, secured, unsecured, and what they mean
• The credit counseling requirement
• Gathering the information you’ll need
• Completing each of the required forms
• Filing: how, when, where
• The automatic stay and what it will and won’t do
• Dealing with the bankruptcy trustee
• The meeting of creditors
• The second credit counseling course
• Objections to discharge
• Life after bankruptcy
What We Won’t Cover
These posts are designed to help a person file a Chapter 7 case. If a person doesn’t qualify for Chapter 7 because her income is too high or she can’t file Chapter 7 because she has debts she needs to take deal with through Chapter 13, these posts won’t address those situations. If a business is involved and the business has a separate legal identity (such as being a corporation, partnership, or LLC), the business cannot file pro se. This is because no one other than individuals are permitted to represent themselves in any court.
A Bankruptcy Attorney Can Help
While most attorneys will be reluctant to help by answering questions about how to file pro se (it’s sort of like asking a dentist to help you fill your own teeth), if you get to the point that you’re stuck, it’s never too late to contact a professional. If we can help, contact us here, email email@example.com, or call or text (801) 413-3708.