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Bankruptcy can be an excellent solution for people who have fallen on hard financial times that they simply cannot recover from. While both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are generally considered a last resort when your debts have become unmanageable, the fact is one of these options may be your best hope to deal with unyielding creditors. And as with all matters in the US judiciary system, you can handle your bankruptcy filing pro se (this is Latin for “in person”) - which means you can act as your own attorney. If you’re thinking of doing a DIY (do it yourself) bankruptcy, here are some facts you must read before diving in without the assistance of an attorney…
Fact #1 A Bankruptcy Petition is Lengthy
Unlike small claims court or other minor legal matters that are easier to handle on your own behalf, bankruptcy (either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13) is a voluminous undertaking. A bankruptcy filing includes a petition and a number of supporting schedules. This is a lot of work and can be time consuming and frustrating if you have no legal knowledge to fall back on.
Fact #2 A Bankruptcy Petition Must Be Error Free
You must list all of your assets (that are required to be included by law) and your debts. Leaving an asset or creditor off of your supporting schedules can get you into trouble with the court or can prevent you from getting the full benefits a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy typically offer. Errors or incomplete information can result in denial of your petition.
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Fact #3 A Bankruptcy Petition Must Be Legally Sound
North Carolina has specific property exemptions that will allow you to keep most of your household assets, your vehicles and your home (under certain circumstances). This is when legal expertise becomes critical with bankruptcy. If you don’t take full advantage of the exemptions provided under the law, you can miss out on some of the relief offered and if you make a mis-step you can be accused of fraud.
Fact #4 A Bankruptcy Misfiled Will Not Give You the Best Results
If you go into the bankruptcy process without a legal advocate and without the knowledge required, you may come out of the 341 meeting with creditors at a disadvantage. Without knowing the letter of the law, you won't be able to best protect yourself. And when it comes to dealing with a bankruptcy Trustee, they won’t (and can’t) give you legal advice but will hold you to the same standard they do lawyers.
Fact #5 A Bankruptcy Attorney Fees Are Money Well Spent
You may opt to try and file your North Carolina bankruptcy on your own because you think you can’t afford the attorney fees. In fact, most attorneys offer a payment plan to help you afford a bankruptcy. And once you have a good bankruptcy plan in place (in a Chapter 13) or your unsecured debts relieved (in a Chapter 7) you will be able to afford the costs of the filing and will come out ahead financially in the long run.
There’s a saying about representing yourself in a legal matter: if you act as your own attorney, you have a fool for a client. This is quite apt when it comes to handling a bankruptcy filing. It’s okay to DIY some things – changing your oil, painting your kitchen or assembling furniture – but bankruptcy is one of those areas of specialized knowledge and expertise where you need a professional advocating for you. If you live in North Carolina and are considering filing bankruptcy to get much-needed debt relief, contact the law offices of John T Orcutt so we can show you just how affordable hiring a top notch bankruptcy attorney can be!