You can attempt many types of legal filings without a lawyer, including filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but doing so can be difficult and could potentially expose you to the consequences of avoidable mistakes.
Each year, thousands of people file for personal Chapter 7 bankruptcy due to their inability to repay the debts they have accumulated. While excess debt is the common denominator for bankruptcy, cases vary based on the types of assets and debts you have and the complexity of your financial situation.
Filing for bankruptcy is not an easy decision to make. Many debtors find the process complicated and overwhelming.
You’ll have to familiarize yourself with federal laws, organize all your financial documents and fill out a plethora of paperwork. You’ll also need to be mindful of filing deadlines and collaborate with a bankruptcy trustee.
An experienced bankruptcy lawyer can make the process much easier and increase your chances of successfully ridding yourself of unwanted debt while minimizing the damage to your real assets.
Key Facts About Bankruptcy
There are different types of bankruptcy, but all cases are handled through federal courts. After a bankruptcy discharge, your bankruptcy-eligible debt is officially erased, and you are granted an opportunity to start anew.
Here are some additional things you should know when filing bankruptcy:
- Even though bankruptcy cancels your outstanding debt, it stays on your credit reports for many years, making it potentially difficult to get approved for mortgage loans, credit cards, car loans or apartments
- Although you may qualify for some types of credit after bankruptcy, you will likely have to deal with high interest rates until you’ve repaired your credit score
- Not everyone is eligible to file for bankruptcy; a federal bankruptcy judge decides if you can file for bankruptcy and have your debts discharged
- There are many types of bankruptcy filings; however, people or small businesses with very few or no assets typically file Chapter 7 bankruptcy
- Not all debts can be erased; priority debts like child support, alimony, tax claims, restitution and anything the debtor didn’t include in their paperwork cannot be discharged
How to File for Bankruptcy Pro Se (Without a Lawyer)
If you do attempt to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy without the assistance of an attorney, your path toward debt relief will likely consist of the following steps:
- Determine whether you’re eligible for bankruptcy by completing a means test; eligibility is based on your income, debts, nonexempt property and the number of people in your household
- Get your credit reports from all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion)
- Participate in bankruptcy credit counseling to avoid financial problems in the future
- Complete the required I(Please update to use the federal court’s bankruptcy forms)
- Attend the scheduled 341 Meeting where you meet with your trustee to answer questions about your case
- After you’ve filed your paperwork, complete a mandatory Personal Financial Management Instruction Course within 45 days of meeting with your trustee
- Wait for the outcome of your bankruptcy petition
Should You File for Bankruptcy with the Help of a Lawyer?
If your financial situation is particularly complicated, such as a case in which creditors are suing you, it may be in your best interest to seek legal representation.
For example, creditors who have loaned you money in the past can file a nondischargeability complaint requesting the court not discharge your debt. This typically happens when the creditor is accusing you of things like fraud, embezzlement, intentionally damaging property or purchasing luxury items within 90 days of filing for bankruptcy.
If you’re faced with such actions, a qualified bankruptcy attorney may be able to help you combat the accusations or better navigate the fallout.
Even if you’re situation isn’t complicated by creditor actions, consulting with a bankruptcy attorney could still be beneficial.
Do You Have Questions or Concerns About Your Bankruptcy Petition?
You may have questions or be confused about certain aspects of the bankruptcy process. Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Services (MNLRIS) is committed to helping Minnesota residents find expert legal representation.
If you’re in the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area and looking for a bankruptcy attorney, our referral counselors will help you find the right person. We also offer referrals for individuals seeking advice on marriage and family law.
Call us at (612) 752-6699 to schedule your free consultation.