What You Should Know About Filing for Bankruptcy in Illinois Without an Attorney
Do-It-Yourself filings can have serious, expensive consequences
At Debtstoppers, we admire the American can-do spirit. So, if you’re saying, “Yes, I can become debt free,” we’re with you 100 percent. Our attorneys have the knowledge, skill and experience to guide you through Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the most efficient and painless way possible. But if your can-do impulse suggests that bankruptcy is a do-it-yourself project, we have to caution that common errors by pro se (DIY) filers lead to expensive, often irreversible, losses. In fact, the courts throw out most pro se filings because the average filer can’t anticipate procedural and paperwork problems.
What you stand to lose when you try to file yourself
At Debtstoppers, we’re proud that our bankruptcy services pay for themselves in the way we protect our clients’ assets. You might be thinking, “I’m already in bankruptcy, what more do I have to lose?” The short answer is, “Plenty,” as these mistakes illustrate.
Filing for bankruptcy when it’s not the best choice — Not all debt is dischargeable through bankruptcy. If you’re being crushed by student loan debt and back taxes, bankruptcy is not going to help.
Assuming the court clerk or bankruptcy trustee will give you legal advice — The clerk is there to accept your forms, not to correct your mistakes. The bankruptcy trustee is appointed to oversee the process, not give you a primer on the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which runs for more than 500 pages. The court may void your filing and force you to start over if you file the wrong forms, fail to follow the rules of your local bankruptcy court, or miss your pre-filing requirements, such as attending credit counseling. Failing to attend your meeting of creditors can subject you to adverse rulings.
Making transfers to “insiders” or incurring more debt prior to filing — If you make a gift to a relative or load up a credit card after you’ve already considered filing for bankruptcy, your creditors can accuse you of fraud.
Filing the wrong type of bankruptcy — Pro se filers often expose themselves to the means test, then miscalculate and disqualify themselves from Chapter 7 filing. They’re forced to file under Chapter 13, which requires them to repay much more of their debt than a Chapter 7 filing would have.
Mishandling exemptions — The bankruptcy code allows you to hold onto certain assets up to certain limits. If you miscategorize your assets or miscalculate exemptions, you could expose much more of your possessions to liquidation to pay off debt. Filers who do not get an attorney’s advice often use exempt assets to pay down debt prior to filing, so they’ve lost wealth they could have kept to pay debt the court may have discharged.
Losing the protection of the automatic stay — One of the great advantage of filing bankruptcy is the automatic stay, which forbids creditors from contacting you to attempt collections. Too often, pro se filers make a mistake that voids their automatic stay, so even though they’re in bankruptcy, their creditors can contact them, demanding repayment.
We understand that it’s natural for people facing insolvency to want to save money where they can, but skimping on attorney fees for personal bankruptcy denies you advantages that only knowledge of the law and experience with the process can deliver. Using a qualified bankruptcy attorney reduces your stress, and ultimately saves you time and probably a good deal of money.
Make the right choice when filing for bankruptcy. Call Chicago DebtStoppers today!
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