As the economy continues to struggle, many Americans are feeling the pressures of being buried under mountains of debt. Living paycheck to paycheck is a reality for many as they try to hold on hoping that things will turn around and get better. All it takes is for one unexpected circumstance to happen such as a sudden illness or major car repair and these individuals finances will be sent spiraling out of control. Filing bankruptcy can offer a solution to individuals such as these.
Making the decision to file bankruptcy is certainly a serious step and the individual needs to take into account all of the possible ramifications that come with a bankruptcy filing. For example, filing bankruptcy will affect the debtor's credit rating and alter their ability to borrow money or obtain credit for a period of time in the future. Rebuilding one's credit is not impossible but it requires time and diligence on the part of the debtor. But if an individual finds themselves in a situation that they are not in control of their finances and in terrible debt then bankruptcy will give them a much needed second chance. Some people are so deep in debt that they have a difficult time even coming up with enough money to pay for a bankruptcy attorney. So what then do these individuals do?
It is important to realize that filing bankruptcy is a person's legal right and they also have a right to represent themselves in a bankruptcy case. The place to begin is right on your own computer. There is a wealth of information on the internet about bankruptcy. The debtor can even download the bankruptcy forms for free online from the US bankruptcy court website. The debtor will need to really do their homework and research the bankruptcy laws for their district as they tend to vary not only from state to state, but from district to district. With the changes to the bankruptcy code back in 2005, filing bankruptcy became more complicated. The bankruptcy petition almost doubled in size and became more difficult to fill out. It has landmines that if it is not filled out properly the case can be dismissed without a discharge. There was an addition of mandatory credit counseling and financial management courses that needed to be completed prior to the discharge. A means test was added to qualify a debtor to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy or they would be forced into a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Exemption laws for protecting property and assets became more involved. Basically filing for bankruptcy became more convoluted for the average individual wanting to file pro se, or on their own. With that said, it is more complicated, but not impossible to file pro se. If the debtor is confident in their ability to research and navigate the internet for bankruptcy information and then download the free bankruptcy forms, then they will certainly save money. The only costs for filing will be the court filing fees which run around $199 nationwide and the cost of the required bankruptcy courses which are around $30-$50 per course. An individual that is really strapped for cash may apply for a fee waiver from the court and even receive a fee waiver or discount from the credit counseling company.
Even though free bankruptcy forms are available and every person has the right to file bankruptcy without a bankruptcy attorney, it is always best to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney in their area. A bankruptcy attorney will be knowledgeable about what the expectations are of the bankruptcy trustee in that district and will know what will be acceptable for a smooth bankruptcy process. A bankruptcy attorney will also be familiar with the federal as well as state exemption laws so they can protect as much personal property and assets of the debtor's as possible. This can be invaluable to the debtor. If the individual weighs out the amount of debt that they are trying to discharge and property that they would like to keep, then the fee for the expertise of the bankruptcy attorney is really pretty minimal. In the end, when an individual needs to file for bankruptcy, whether they file on their own or with the help of a bankruptcy attorney, the final result will be a fresh start.
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