One of the most frequently asked questions in my practice is “In Florida, can I consider filing bankruptcy without a lawyer?” Honestly, yes you can file without an lawyer, and it doesn’t matter what chapter you file. Chapter 7, 11, 12, 13 – it makes no difference. You can absolutely Home Depot that if you think you have the chops.
But here’s why you shouldn’t.
Forms, Forms, Everywhere a Form
Getting all your information filled in and submitted correctly is vital to having a successful bankruptcy. If you are going to file by yourself, you have to fill out the paperwork you are submitting perfectly. There’s no room for error, and if you omit something you can amend your filing, but it won’t look good to the trustee or the courts. A bankruptcy filing is a sworn statement, and you are attesting by filing that paperwork that everything in there is true and accurate – there’s very little room for a “Whoops!”
The Right Bankruptcy Filing
Additionally, there are qualifications for certain types of bankruptcies, and I am not talking about business or personal. The Chapter 7 bankruptcy for individuals comes with a means test. If you don’t meet the criteria, you filing may be converted into a Chapter 13. That’s much more complicated and drawn out than a Chapter 7, and you will have to pay back some of your debts. Even filing for a “simple” Chapter 7 is more complicated than it looks at the starting line.
Stupid Creditor Tricks
Creditors have time on their side, and often know how to play the law like the Steelers play football – with bone-drenching results for the other team. An attorney, trained and experienced, can see these tactics coming a mile away. Some creditors who hold what are called “time barred debts” will revive that zombie debt. Other creditors will try to force you into arbitration instead of bankruptcy court. Having an attorney on your side means that you will have someone fighting on your side just the same way that your creditors have lawyers to fight for them.
If you are determined to file or already have filed as a pro se (that means representing yourself), you’re still going to need legal advice. We can look over your filing for you and give our best recommendations, or we can take up your case when you’ve carried it as far as you can. We’ll amend filings, and work with you and the trustee to obtain the best result that we can.
In my practice, we have helped thousands of people file for and obtain a successful discharge of their debts in the Florida federal courts. We know what we need to do in order to make sure your filing is right the first time, and how to smooth the process so that you have as little stress and panic as possible. This is the reason that bankruptcy is considered a specialty practice. We will work with you on payment, and even start the process for a zero down bankruptcy.
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