There’s More To Filing Bankruptcy Than Filling Out Forms

Many people have the mistaken idea that all that’s needed to file bankruptcy is filling out a bunch of forms, paying a fee, and submitting the paperwork to the court. Sounds simple and cost-saving, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that description is very far from the realities of the bankruptcy world. Now, since I’m a bankruptcy attorney in Indiana, you might say, “Well, sure Zuckerberg would say you need an attorney to help file bankruptcy!”

There’s a feature story in Marketplace Money about one U.S. bankruptcy court that was so concerned about the mistakes debtors were making when they filed without using an attorney, it created a special position for a clerk to help people not represented by counsel. This clerk, when interviewed for the story, expressed her frustration. Since, even though she works for the court, she is not allowed to give legal advice, much of her time is spent trying to persuade petitioners to hire an attorney to help them.

Does the law require you to have an attorney? Not at all! You can even find the forms you need online. Keep in mind, though, there’s an awful lot to the process – the timing of the different steps, the requirements, the terminology. People filing bankruptcy are already under quite a bit of stress. It’s hardly the time for them to get educated in a complex area of the law, especially when mistakes can have such serious results!

I often tell people who ask me whether they should try to file on their own: “You could do your own open heart surgery – but would you?”