If you decide to seek bankruptcy relief, you can
Get help from a bankruptcy petition preparer who is not an attorney, or
Hire an attorney.
THE LAW REQUIRES AN ATTORNEY OR BANKRUPTCY PETITION PREPARER TO GIVE YOU A WRITTEN CONTRACT SPECIFYING THE SERVICES THEY ARE OFFERING TO YOU AND HOW MUCH THEY WILL COST.
You should ask to see the contract before you hire anyone.
The following information explains what must be done in a routine bankruptcy case so that you can decide what services you need.
Although bankruptcy can be complex, many cases are routine.
1. Before filing a bankruptcy case, either you or your attorney* should analyze your eligibility for different forms of debt relief available under the Bankruptcy Code and decide which form of relief will be most beneficial to you. (Other pages on this site explain these different forms of bankruptcy law relief.)
2. A properly prepared bankruptcy includes the following documents which must be complete and accurate:
(A Chapter 13 case must also include a Plan proposing appropriate arrangements to repay creditors.)
The documents set out above must be filed with the Bankruptcy Court along with the filing fee. The current filing fees are $335 for a Chapter 7 case and $310 for a Chapter 13 case.
3. After your case is filed, you must attend a mandatory "First Meeting of Creditors." You will be questioned under oath by an official called a Trustee regarding the documents filed and other aspects of your financial situation. Creditors may also attend and ask questions. It is the responsibility of the Trustee to determine whether you have income or property that should be distributed to your creditors.
4. If you choose to file a Chapter 7 case, you may wish to sign a new promise to pay a specific debt in order to keep certain important property such as a car or home. Signing this promise to pay, which is called a Reaffirmation Agreement, means that the debt will not be discharged in the bankruptcy. You may want to seek help from an attorney to decide whether you should do so. This Reaffirmation Agreement is not mandatory, and creditors are not permitted to pressure you into reaffirming your debts.
5. If you choose to file a Chapter 13 case you will be repaying your creditors what you can afford over a three to five year period. You may want help from an attorney to help with preparing your Chapter 13 Plan for full or partial repayment and in attending the confirmation hearing at which a Bankruptcy judge officially approves or disapproves your repayment plan.
6. If you select another type of relief available under the Bankruptcy code (such a business reorganization) you will want to find out what needs to be done from someone familiar with that type of relief.
7. Your bankruptcy case may also involve litigation. (Litigation refers to matters which are contested by the Trustee, the Judge or a Creditor.) You are generally permitted to represent yourself in Bankruptcy Court litigation but only attorney can give you legal advice on how to handle such matters.
*BANKRUPTCY PETITION PREPARERS ARE NOT LAWYERS AND CANNOT EXPLAIN THE LAW TO YOU OR GIVE YOU LEGAL ADVICE.
IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES FROM A BANKRUPTCY ATTORNEY