reasons to hire a bankruptcy attorney
How hard is it to file on your own? I really
can't afford an attorney and need to file, are there any particular
things I should know? Some of my bills are outstanding for 15 or
20 years and they are taking me to court, but I don't even know
what I owe from the past. I have an idea of which creditors but
not account numbers.
I understand that money's tight, Diana, and that you are trying
to save every penny. I believe that you will save far more money
in the long run if you hire an attorney to handle your bankruptcy.
Now you might be thinking, "Hey, this guy's a bankruptcy attorney.
Of course he'll tell me that I need him." In fact, I hope you
are thinking like this; sensible caution indicates a healthy desire
to protect yourself. So here's my argument for why hiring a bankruptcy
attorney is truly worth it.
Protection from creditor harassment: Once you
have informed your creditors (for example, collection agencies)
that you have retained counsel, by law they can still contact you.
They should be informed that you have hired an attorney and then
told to call his or her office. However, a good attorney will call
any harassing collectors and make an attempt to get the calls to
stop. This saves you time and the money you'd otherwise spend on
Protection from uncertainty: There are many
ins and outs of a bankruptcy petition. There are communications
from the court, from the trustees who review your case and even
from creditors. Navigating these waters can be stressful, especially
because you don't know how your actions will affect whether your
discharge is granted. Your attorney will know exactly how to proceed,
however, and when he or she says, "Everything's on schedule,
you're going to be OK," you can believe it. This also saves
you time and the money you'd be spending on anxiety medicine.
Protection from what you don't know: We each
do the best we can with the information we've got. If you file on
your own, you're functioning with a lot less information. For example,
you mentioned in your question that some of your debt is at least
15 years old. An attorney will tell you that the statute of limitations
has likely run out on this debt. This saves you money. Period.
Protection from mistakes: It's not always so
easy to fill out the paperwork correctly. For example, many people
think that if they want to keep their car that they should not include
it on the petition. This will likely result in a dismissed case.
There are ways to protect a car, but it must be listed correctly,
with the proper information in the proper place. This also saves
you time (an attorney will do the paperwork quickly but it could
take you hours) and will also save you the money you'd otherwise
have to spend on another car.
In conclusion, Diana, the bankruptcy laws are changing
in significant ways in
the next week and so has the paperwork. Filling out the forms
accurately and completely is essential to a successful petition.
Anything less and your case may be dismissed -- and that's not how
you save money.
Justin Harelik is a practicing bankruptcy lawyer
in the Los Angeles office of Price Law Group. To ask a question
of the Bankruptcy Adviser go to the "Ask
the Experts" page, and select "bankruptcy" as