If you've fallen into hard times financially and feel like you're drowning in debt, you've probably considered bankruptcy as a solution. If you aren't sure and don't understand the complexities of the law, a bankruptcy attorney can explain the bankruptcy laws to you and help you throughout the process. Many people hesitate to pay a bankruptcy lawyer because they're already in debt and short of cash, but trying to file on your own can be disastrous. If you don't know which form of bankruptcy chapter to file, the courts could reject your petition, or you might miss crucial information that will work in your favor at a hearing. Of course, if you're confident that you can write and file a Petition for Bankruptcy properly and represent yourself well at a hearing, you may be able to file on your own.
How do you know if you need a bankruptcy attorney? Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do you know which type of bankruptcy chapter you want to file? Most personal bankruptcy filings are either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. There are pros and cons to each one that an experienced attorney can explain. He or she can also go over your financial records with you and help you choose the right filing for your situation.
2. Do you know what property you'll have to give up and what you can keep? This varies widely from state to state, so it's crucial to talk to someone who is familiar with the exemption guidelines in your state. It could mean the difference between having transportation and having to sell your car to discharge certain debts. Homestead exemptions often allow you to keep your house, but jewelry, cash, and even furs can be confiscated in a bankruptcy situation. A bankruptcy attorney can help you put together a list of assets and determine which ones can be kept. If you try to do this yourself and you miss an asset, your petition could be kicked back to you and you'll have to start over.
3. Can you properly prepare a bankruptcy petition? There are forms available that make it easy to do a "fill in the blank" petition, but these are so generic they're almost useless. No two bankruptcies are alike and a good lawyer can fill out the forms with information that is in your favor. A professionally prepared bankruptcy petition also makes a better impression on a judge. If you submit an incomplete or inaccurate petition, the judge will not accept your petition and you'll be back at square one.
4. Are you confident enough to go into a bankruptcy hearing on your own? A bankruptcy attorney can hold your hand throughout the bankruptcy process. He or she will go to the bankruptcy hearing with you and represent you during questioning by the court. Although the hearing is generally rather basic, many people find it a nerve-wracking experience. Having a bankruptcy lawyer by your side will give you confidence. If you are asked a question you weren't expecting, your attorney will be your champion and advise you on how to answer. You wouldn't represent yourself in civil or criminal court, why would you do so in bankruptcy court? A bankruptcy attorney is there for you and can make a major difference in how your case is handled.
5. Are you being harassed by creditors? If so, the law says they have to stop contacting you for payment as soon as the petition for bankruptcy is filed. Your attorney can contact all of your creditors for you, relieving you of the burden of explaining the situation to numerous creditors, some of who may be upset. A bankruptcy lawyer will send a letter to each creditor and will follow up with any who don't comply so you can less stressed.
Filing for bankruptcy is traumatic and complex. Hiring a bankruptcy attorney can give you the expertise you need to file successfully without mistakes along the way.
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