While it may be relatively easy to start the process of a bankruptcy filing, getting high-quality legal advice and help is crucial. Many complications can arise after a bankruptcy filing when it is done by an inexperienced lawyer or done “pro per” (a term for people acting as their own lawyers).
In 2005 the bankruptcy law was changed in some important ways, and filing and sustaining a bankruptcy petition became more difficult and complicated. Of course, you are legally allowed to file pro per and act as your own attorney. But if you decide to act in pro per, expect problems. It is far more advisable to consult with an expert bankruptcy lawyer in San Diego who can fully explain your legal options and who will also help you avoid serious mistakes that people make both before and after they file.
Maybe it would help to give some examples of how pro per filers and inexperienced lawyers can mess up a bankruptcy case and risk losing the benefits of filing or risk losing property that you could otherwise keep. Below are some problems or mistakes that we have seen in the San Diego bankruptcy court system when people fail to consult with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. Keep in mind that these mistakes have consequences that include serious delays, the dismissal of a case, the loss of property that could have been saved or retained and the denial of bankruptcy relief:
- Failure to claim the proper legal “exemptions” which protect your assets and allow you to keep your property.
- Transfering title to assets before bankruptcy or concealing assets from the Court and Trustee (when those assets could have been easily protected if handled by an expert). This type of mistake is very serious and typically leads to the loss of an asset that could have been saved. This conduct can also result in the denial or loss of a discharge.
- Failure to obtain credit counseling before filing or failure to file the right documents with the court concerning your counseling.
- Failure to prepare and file all the correct schedules and other required forms or the failure to include the proper and complete information on these forms.
- Choosing the wrong date to file bankruptcy and thus failing to maximize asset protection or failing to get key debts properly discharged (for those circumstances where the date is important).
- Failing to engage in proper exemption planning resulting in the loss of assets.
- Filing under the wrong Chapter.
- Running up (charging) credit cards within key time periods before filing.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are bankruptcy preparer services (paralegal or filing services) that advertise that they can file your petition for you, but these services are legally prohibited from giving you legal advice. Also, these services can not represent you when problems arise in your case.
None of these mistakes are necessary when you consider that you can meet with an expert bankruptcy lawyer for a free consultation and get free bankruptcy advice. We meet with people every day for no charge and analyze their legal situation and their options. We give free bankruptcy advice and can show you how you can get the help you need to get a fresh start.