Will You Need a Lawyer to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

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Question:

We're in foreclosure and are thinking about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy so that we can stay in our house for as long as we can. We don't think we can afford a bankruptcy attorney. Is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy something we can do on our own?

Answer:

Most people don’t need to hire a lawyer to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. For the vast majority of filers, there’s no court appearance before a judge and no legal advocacy needed. That’s good news, because changes to the bankruptcy law in 2005 made things more complicated, and attorney fees for bankruptcies doubled in most parts of the country. As a result, people are doing their own bankruptcies in ever greater numbers.

Although you won't need an attorney, you will, need some guidance. You can probably find what you need from good do-it-yourself books (like Nolo's How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy) and websites. Some bankruptcy court websites are also very helpful.

In some states (mostly in the West), paralegals labeled bankruptcy petition preparers (BPPs) by the federal bankruptcy law will do your paperwork for a reasonable fee (between $100 and $200) under your direction and control. Keep in mind that BPPs are not lawyers and can't give you legal advice. To find a reputable BPP in your area, ask around for recommendations or look for a legal document assistant (in California), a legal document preparer (in Arizona), or an independent paralegal or legal technician (in Florida and other states).

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