An bankruptcy attorney's knowledge and skill will more than compensate for the difference in cost between true legal representation and a document preparer. A document preparer is not qualified is prohibited by law from giving legal advice. Only lawyers can give legal advice and represent debtors at the Trustee Hearings and in the Bankruptcy Court.
An attorney will develop a strategy with you as to the best time to file the bk. For example, given that you are unemployed and probably without assets, this may not be the best time to file for bankruptcy. A BK attorney will obtain your credit report to make sure all possible claims are discharged. The attorney will represent you at the Trustee's Hearing. It is common for the Trustee to have questions for the debtor that are technical and confusing. The attorney will prepare the debtor for those questions. The Trustee will often ask for supplemental information and documents that the attorney can help in providing to the Trustee. If something goes wrong the attorney is there to explain your options.
In summary, for peace of mind and the highest probability of success, go with the bankruptcy attorney.
Many attorneys, like myself, offer free consultations to analyze your financial situation and to explain the bankruptcy process .
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You should speak to an attorney before you decide to file. If you owe $20k and don't have any assets and you unemployed, you may not need to file at all.
A bankruptcy petition preparer (BPP) is nothing more than a stenographer. You might as well do the paperwork and file on your own. They don't know the intricacies of the bankruptcy code and not qualified to give anyone any legal advice - and, in fact, are prohibited from doing so.
I completely agree with Mr. Lauria's response and will only add one specific example of of where a document preparer almost cost the debtors a LOT of money.
A couple filed for Chapter 7 and used a "paralegal" instead of an attorney. The debtors did not claim any of their property as exempt in their bankruptcy petition on Schedule C. Rather than taking advantage of the situation and taking away their property, the Chapter 7 trustee advised them to seek legal counsel.
I was able to file their amendments to claim all of their property exempt. The paralegal also failed to advise them about the second class in financial management that was required to get a discharge. I fixed the problems and they ended up getting their discharge and keeping all of their assets.
An experienced attorney can help you avoid some of those pitfalls.
First, the firm is a debt relief agency according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. We help people file for bankruptcy. We also do other stuff and we do it well, but Congress wants me to post this notice.
Second, nothing on this site is legal advice. You are not my client unless you enter into a written agreement signed by you and me.
Jonathan Leventhal, Esq..
Leventhal Law Group, P.C.
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"I need to file bankruptcy and am wondering if it is advisable to use a Bankruptcy Preparer and not an Attorney?" -- Easy answer: Can you, yes. Should you, no. You get much more bang for your buck with an attorney. Many petition preparers do not know what they are doing and it is more costly to fix their mistakes after the fact than if you had retained a qualified attorney initially.
SINCE 1974. My answers are for general information only. They are not legal advice. Answers assume California law. I am licensed in California, only. Answers must not be relied upon.<br>
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If you use a bankruptcy petition preparer, as is your right under Federal law, inquire if the preparer has an Errors & Omissions insurance policy, (these are similar to an attorney's malpractice insurance policy).
All answers previously offered are accurate and sound advice. Please also realize that a document preparer or paralegal cannot attend the 341(a) hearing with you and cannot represent you either in front if the trustee or in front of the court (with respect to any reaffirmation agreements, any creditor claims, or any additional work that may be required in your case after your documents (chapter 7 petition and schedules, etc.) are filed in your case.
A lawyer may be a able to work with your limited budget if unemployed, either by choosing to offer installment fees or reduced rate for attorney services. You will have to ask around to see what is available, given your particular situation.
NOTE: we can be reached at www.salanicklaw.com (310) 590-4575. This answer is made available by the lawyer for educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you understand that there is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney with whom you have established an attorney client relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific factual or legal circumstance described in the question.
I agree with all the comments and answers above. Let me just add that based on your statement that "I owe $20,000.00 and am unemployed", you may not need to file for bankruptcy. A consultation with an attorney will answer whether or not you should file in the first place. Also, I recently represented a debtor who initially used a Bankruptcy Preparer. That debtor almost lost his home but I was able to have his bankruptcy case dismissed. Meet with an attorney.
Agree with prior comments. However, given your low debt amount and employment status, I suggest contacting your local legal aid or bar association and seeking pro bono counsel. Assuming you have no assets you may qualify for assistance.
This is not legal advice and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The post is only my opinion and not the opinion of Lowenstein Sandler LLP. You should speak to an attorney for further information. The poster is licensed only in NY and NJ. If this post is useful to you, please remember to "vote it up." Thank you