Once you’ve decided that bankruptcy is the right financial option for your situation, you may see online resources describing how you can do it yourself.
This is referred to as filing “pro se,” which is a Latin legal term meaning you’re representing yourself. Lawyers cost money, but filling out forms is free. The choice seems sensible. After all, the point of bankruptcy is to recover financially. Why not file for bankruptcy without a lawyer?
The attorneys at Sasser Law Firm have seen this play out many times in North Carolina courts. Unfortunately, filing bankruptcy pro se is more difficult than just filling out forms. Errors associated with a filing can come with real, lasting consequences.
With the help of a board-certified bankruptcy specialist, you may actually save significant money and protect some of your most important assets. The lawyers at Sasser Law Firm are board-certified specialists ready to help North Carolinians when they need it most.
Contact us today to set up a free consultation to learn about your options.
In addition to free consultations, our firm requires no up-front fees or cost in order to file chapter 13 and obtain relief. The fees and costs for chapter 13 are rolled into the repayment plan.
What Is Pro Se Bankruptcy Filing?
In North Carolina, or anywhere else in the country, individuals don’t have to hire a lawyer in order to declare and file for bankruptcy. A registered entity such as a corporation or LLC would need a lawyer. Individuals can choose pro se.
You are allowed to fill out the appropriate bankruptcy forms on your own. You then file those forms with the court by yourself. And you defend any challenges to your filing yourself.
The government provides the paperwork online for anyone to use for free. Some of the forms are quite straightforward. You’ll list your personal details and disclose your financial situation. Many of them, however, is much more intricate.
To maximize the relief available may require knowledge of the United States Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, the local rules of the District the case is being filed in, precedential caselaw, and North Carolina statutes.
That seems simple enough. You’ve probably filled out plenty of government forms, from your taxes to the census to a voter registration card. Once you look at the full extent of the digital files you’ll need to download, answer accurately, and submit correctly, you may reconsider.
You should think carefully before you file pro se. Namely, there are numerous risks to pro se bankruptcy filing and many advantages to hiring a bankruptcy attorney.
Risks of Filing for Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer
Do you know what form of bankruptcy will benefit you the most? You can read about the differences, but you may not be able to tell which will actually help you resolve your issues in the best way. Individuals file for either Chapter 7, Chapter 13, Chapter 11 or Chapter 12.
If you do file pro se, the law prohibits the people who process your bankruptcy from providing you with legal advice. If you make a mistake, it can have serious consequences. An incorrect or incomplete filing could mean that your effort to discharge your debt just costs more money.
If you file for the wrong kind of bankruptcy, you could lose your home or other important personal property. A lawyer can evaluate your financial situation and advise you which chapter most aligns with your goals and priorities.
Courts will still expect you to file your petition correctly. You may find it difficult to interpret the rules and regulations you have to work within.
In fact, a good lawyer will likely save you money by protecting you from costly/avoidable mistakes. They’ll also make sure that you’ve considered all of your options, including not filing at all.
Common Problems in Courts When Filing for Bankruptcy Pro Se
At Sasser Law Firm, we hope everyone who needs it uses bankruptcy effectively and to their own benefit. many people who file pro se face serious problems.
Here are some of the most common difficulties we’ve observed when filing bankruptcy without a lawyer:
- Choosing the wrong kind of bankruptcy. Individuals can choose between Chapter 7, Chapter 13, Chapter 11, and Chapter 12 bankruptcy. Businesses that are registered entities can file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 11. If you choose the wrong kind, your creditors may be able to confiscate property that you would have been able to keep if you had made a better choice.
- Making an error in claiming your exemptions. You can exempt certain kinds of property from liquidation, but you have to list them correctly. If you don’t, the asset is subject to liquidation.
- Defending yourself in court. Parties to the case such as creditors, the trustee, and the Bankruptcy Administrator can seek dismissal of the case or oppose discharge or oppose dischargability of a particular debt. This requires a hearing before the federal bankruptcy judge. Representing yourself in front of the bankruptcy judge may be challenging and stressful.
Why Hiring a Bankruptcy Attorney Is Probably Better Than Filing on Your Own
Hiring a qualified lawyer guarantees that your bankruptcy filing is done correctly, and you may even save money as a result. The US federal court website published a list of all the ways a bankruptcy lawyer can help you (and bankruptcy judges and court employees can’t).
Our lawyers at Sasser Law Firm will give you a crucial benefit that you lack: experience. We’ve handled thousands of cases for both individuals and businesses.
Since we’ve done it so many times before, we know what errors cause problems and seek to avoid them in our client’s filings. We’ve undertaken Chapter 7, 11, and 13 cases, so we’ll be able to tell which bankruptcy is the right one for you.
When you file bankruptcy on your own, you’ll have to read legal jargon and apply it to your situation. That can be difficult, but years of practice have made us efficient and our goal is to advise you quickly.
You may have pressing financial obligations that you need to resolve quickly, like an impending foreclosure. We can figure out if there’s a way to avoid the most serious consequences and maintain your life at a sustainable level. We know it is unpleasant to file bankruptcy, so we’ll do our best to be the steady expert you need in this difficult time.
Finally, we may tell you that bankruptcy isn’t your best bet. Our goal is to give you the best possible advice and help you resolve your debt issues in the best way possible If you should wait to file or avoid bankruptcy, we’ll tell you that.
We’ll never pressure you to file for bankruptcy. If bankruptcy is not a good choice we will actively discourage you from filing or try to explain the risk associated with it.
Speak with a North Carolina Bankruptcy Attorney
Realizing your personal finances can’t be fixed without drastic steps is difficult. Filing bankruptcy pro se may feel like a smart financial choice, but don’t make the mistake of trying to work through your bankruptcy on your own. It could end up costing you way more in the long run. Contact Sasser Law Firm instead.
Our three board-certified bankruptcy specialists are happy to discuss representation on cases that you think are straight forward and also cases that are difficult.
If you file and need to appeal an adverse decision, we may be willing to represent you on that fight as well. All initial consultations are with attorneys as opposed to a paralegal or legal assistant.
We’re transparent about our fees, so you don’t have to worry about hidden costs or unexpected bills. If you need to file for bankruptcy, our experienced lawyers can be valuable. Get in touch with us at Sasser Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation. We’re available in person and by phone.