Do I need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?

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Do I need an attorney to file for bankruptcy?

You will probably get a better result if you hire an attorney. You may be able to find an attorney who will give you a free or low-cost initial consultation by contacting a local bar association or lawyer referral service. If you are very poor, there may be a legal aid office in your area that can locate someone to represent you free.

Ordinary people can often handle a very simple Chapter 7 case on their own, without an attorney. This is a proceeding called “pro se.”

Ordinary people probably cannot handle a Chapter 13 case pro se. These cases require close attention to detail in drafting a plan, negotiating with creditors and with the Chapter 13 Trustee’s office, and so on.

If you own a home or other very valuable property, it’s a very bad idea to represent yourself in a bankruptcy case under any chapter. You might save a couple of thousand dollars in attorney’s fees only to learn that you’ve made a mistake that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Penny wise, in other words, can end up being pound foolish.

(Reviewed 11.14.08)

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