Submitted by Jen Jones on Thu, 05/14/2009 - 9:00am
So you've decided to file bankruptcy. You might be wondering if you need to hire an attorney, or if the process is simple enough to do on your own. In theory, you could file the case on your own, and some people do. The problem is, your financial situation is unique. Following a generic bankruptcy "how-to" guide can actually leave you in a far worse position than you were before filing.
To take advantage of the full potential bankruptcy has to offer, it is vital that your case be handled with the utmost attention to the laws that govern bankruptcy and their application the complex facts of your individual situation. Failure to understand and properly apply the rules could deprive you of many of the rights and benefits the bankruptcy laws were designed to provide -“ and could even result in the dismissal of your case.
For instance, did you know that failing to list an asset in your case may result in the loss of the right to claim the property as exempt from the bankruptcy? "Asset- is broadly defined and includes all types of property, such as stocks, bonds, investment accounts, tax refunds, proceeds from a lawsuit, etc. If you are not extremely careful to list all of your assets, you may inadvertently create an impression that you are trying to hide property from your creditors- a potentially fatal error for your case.
Even if you have listed all assets, do you know which property is exempt from the bankruptcy estate and how to claim those exemptions? Understanding and properly applying the exemptions is crucial to keeping your property. The available exemptions vary from state to state, and depend where you have lived in the past 2 and 1/2 years. If you fail to select the right ones or fail to apply the rules properly, you could end up losing property you otherwise would have been able to keep.
Also, how will you respond to questions or objections from the trustee regarding your case? You could seriously undermine your case by responding without a complete and thorough understanding of your rights and obligations in the process. Being prepared to handle these objections is particularly important if you're planning to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, since recent changes in the law have made filing under that chapter incredibly complicated.
Hiring an experienced bankruptcy attorney to assist you in this process is a wise decision. Doing so will not only help you avoid pitfalls that could seriously undermine your case, it will help you maximize the benefits bankruptcy has to offer you. Given the importance of bankruptcy to getting your life back on track, this is undoubtedly a worthwhile investment. With offices in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, and Wilson, count on the the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt to be your bankruptcy guide.
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