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How to File for Bankruptcy Without an Attorney

Updated on December 4, 2011

How To File For Bankruptcy in Chapter 7

As the saying has goes, only a fool should be his own lawyer. If you have any money at all to hire a bankruptcy attorney, especially if you have serious personal assets to protect, then it is a good idea to "lawyer up" for court. It is very hard for anyone to represent themselves effectively, even as a trained attorney, in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy hearing.

To file papers acceptable to the bankruptcy court and in your best interest can be a daunting project. But many people who file for bankruptcy just plain and simple can't even afford a legal consultation with an attorney, much less the time and money to search for a lawyer. If that is you, you have some work ahead, and I will attempt to point you in the direction of some things you likely will need to know about how to file for bankruptcy without an attorney/ Additionally we point you where to look for help with liquidating your debt using Chapter 7.

Bankruptcy Without an Attorney

If you have the money, then don't file! If you need what you have, and you have time and discipline the you may be able to file for bankruptcy without an attorney, following these steps.

Get Your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Started

Before you do anything else, you need to get a copy of a book on how to file for bankruptcy without the advice or representation of an attorney (called filing pro se). The book by Nolo Press, entitled, How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy (see blow link to amazon for it) is helpful, and while you may be able to get a copy from your local library, it's really worth it to buy it online- it's a book you will likely wear out before you are done.

Explore The Bankruptcy Court Website

The federal bankruptcy court website has links to resources and blank forms that will give you some basic information and some idea of what lies ahead in the bankruptcy court. You also need to visit the one for your local court, and check out local requirements.

Sign Up for a Debt Class

Before you file for Chapter 7 liquidation, you are required to take a class on handling credit, and debt, and the class needs to be one that is approved by the bankruptcy court. It is a good idea anyhow, and there is no way around it. Taking the course may help you avoid bankruptcy altogether, if you can learn alternative ways to manage your debt. Do not take classes that are not approved-- you can compare what is right for you, in price and location, by exploring the list of approved courses maintained by the federal court.

Do an Inventory of Your Emotions

Now is as good a time as any to look at how you are doing. Bankruptcy can take its toll emotionally, and if you let it get the best of you, then you are going to make mistakes, like missing a deadline filing the wrong form or getting off on the wrong foot with your trustee. Probably the biggest mistake you might make would be to bury your head in the sand. This is a life changing experience, and there is no point in filing bankruptcy at all if you are just going to keep on making the same mistakes. If done successfully it is a clean start, and you should treat it that way, and deal with the your preparations for the 2 years after a bankruptcy when you will rebuild your credit.

Now You Are Ready- Consult for Free With An Attorney

You likely have a lot of questions if you have proceeded this far, so before you actually file for bankruptcy, and long before you go to bankruptcy court or the creditors' meeting, you may well be able to get an hour or so of pro bono (freely given) consultation with a lawyer. Ask your local bankruptcy court for the best place to call to try and locate an atttorney who will do this consultation. Sometimes a small hourly fee is requested. You may decide that there is too much at stake, such as when you are facing foreclosure, or it is too complicated, and wish to go ahead and proceed with that attorney representing you; alternatively you may find that you are ready wlling and able to file for bankruptcy without an attorney to help you through the rest of the legal hurdles.

Bankruptcy Photo Credits

Gavel photo: Colleen Lane

Bankrot: DearBarbie


Information provided is educational and not intended as legal advice, individual circumstances matter, and these are best addressed with the consultation of a trained professional familiar with the unique context of your own predicament. .


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