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Do You Need a Lawyer to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

You are in a financial mess. You are behind on credit card bills. Your house and car are about to be repossessed. You lost your job and have no income. Now what?

You may have considered Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is a type of bankruptcy that eliminates many types of debts. Ironically, though, it costs money to file a claim and hire a lawyer—money you do not have at the moment. So what can you do? Do you need a lawyer to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

There is no law that states that you have to have a bankruptcy lawyer for your case. You can legally file on your own, which is known as filing pro se.  However, bankruptcy is a huge financial and legal process. A bankruptcy on your credit record can impact you for many years. You may not be able to get a credit card or loan for at least several years. You could lose assets. It is not a minor process at all, so you need to be sure it is really what you want and that it is done right.

Also, court employees and judges cannot offer legal help, so without a lawyer, you are on your own. There is a lot you will need to know. Even as a non-legal professional, you will be expected to follow the rules and procedures of the local and federal courts, the United States Bankruptcy Code, and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy.

Even if you do not have the money for a lawyer, it does not hurt to call one and ask for a payment arrangement of some sort. It will be well worth the cost.

Why You Should Hire a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Still not convinced you should avoid the pro se route? Here are some reasons to hire a lawyer:

  • They can advise you as to whether or not you should file for bankruptcy.
  • They can advise you on the type of bankruptcy to choose (Chapter 7 vs. 13).
  • They can explain the laws and procedures involved.
  • They can advise you of the tax consequences involved.
  • They can inform you on what types of debts can be discharged.
  • They can inform you on what assets you can keep.
  • They can help you complete and file forms.

Bankruptcy is a serious issue. Sometimes there are better alternatives, but in many cases, bankruptcy is the right step. An attorney can assess your situation and ensure you get maximum debt relief and asset protection.​

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While you are not required to have a lawyer to file for bankruptcy, it is strongly recommended. Having an experienced lawyer on your side can be helpful.

Published February 7, 2022
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