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The Pitfalls of Do-It-Yourself Bankruptcy

by Adam Mack

Bankruptcy is a court action, and as such, individuals technically do have the option to file bankruptcy on their own without the assistance of an attorney, also known as filing “pro se”.  It’s rare for someone to take that route, however, and with good reason.  It’s unwise to wade into the complexity of a bankruptcy case without competent counsel.  Don’t just take our word for it, however.  As it says on the US Federal Courts official website, “Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences – hiring a competent attorney is strongly recommended.”

Attorneys spend years in law school learning the law and years more in practice learning its application.  They know the common problems that can arise and how to resolve them.  They are familiar with the US Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and the local bankruptcy court rules.  When your family’s financial future is on the line, even a small misstep can be ruinous, and there’s no excuse to go it alone when you have options available like Kansas Legal Services for those with limited resources.

Common pitfalls that ruin pro se cases include (but are certainly not limited to): Failing to list all assets Failing to list all creditors Failing to file required court documents Failing to meet deadlines for filing documents or making payments Failing to follow the local rules Failing to correctly interpret how the law applies to their specific situation Failing to understand the impact of the filing of the bankruptcy itself

Finances are stressful, and while the end result of bankruptcy is financial freedom, the process itself is stressful, too, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.  You’ll still be dealing with your creditors and will have to file court documents that make tax paperwork look like a walk in the park.  If you’re dishonest or fail to provide complete information that you swore under oath is complete, you can even be criminally charged with perjury.  To make matters worse, the courts randomly audit pro se bankruptcy filers to ensure the truthfulness, accuracy, and completeness of the information you’re providing.

If you hire a bankruptcy attorney, your lenders will have to work with him or her instead of you – you’ll never again have to speak with the creditors who have been hounding you.  Your attorney will be able to interpret both the complex petition questions as well as how the law applies to your specific situation.  You’ll have an experienced guide to walk you through the process and to financial peace of mind.  Perhaps most importantly, a good Kansas lawyer can sometimes even help you avoid bankruptcy altogether.