Table of Contents
  1. Filing a pro se bankruptcy case is a bad idea – Don’t roll the dice!
  2. A story from my law practice
  3. Meet with a qualified attorney
  4. Pro se bankruptcy can hurt your career

Filing a bankruptcy case without an attorney is known as a “pro se” case. Although it may seem that filing bankruptcy is all “filling out forms,” it’s more complicated than that.

Filing a pro se bankruptcy case is a bad idea – Don’t roll the dice!

When you file a bankruptcy case by yourself, you are held to the same standards as an attorney.  “I didn’t know” won’t save your case and it won’t save you from being charged for perjury. Bankruptcy is a complicated process and if you think its just filling out some paper and then appearing for court, you are headed for trouble.

In an “asset case,” the number one thing a bankruptcy lawyer helps you do is protect property from the trustee, whose job it is to audit your property to see if there is anything they can sell to satisfy some of your debts.

A good bankruptcy lawyer can help shield your assets and still get out of debt. Without a lawyer, you may lose property you would otherwise keep.

A story from my law practice

Today at the 341 Meeting of Creditors, I decided to stick around watch a pro se hearing.  It is usually educated cheap people who try file bankruptcy without an attorney.  Before this hearing started, I wondered to myself how this case would blow up.  Then, the questioning began.

The trouble for this pro se case began when the chapter 7 trustee asked, “do you have items for sale on craigslist?” “Yes.” replied the pro se debtor.

“Why didn’t you list them in your bankruptcy petition?” replied the trustee.

“Because they really don’t belong to me.” replied pro se debtor.

“Do you have a paypal account?”  asked the trustee. “Yes.” replied the pro se debtor. “How much money is this account right now.” “Four thousand dollars but its not really mine.  Its my boyfriends money” replied the pro se debtor. “Whose name is on the account?” the trustee asked. “Only mine” replied the debtor.

This pro se debtor thought she was saving money by filing the case by herself.  Now, she is going to lose $4,000 because she didn’t realize that the chapter 7 trustee can go after your Pay Pal account.

Meet with a qualified attorney

Some people should not file Chapter 7 but should file Chapter 13 instead.  Meeting with a qualified bankruptcy attorney will put you in the right direction. In addition to losing money, this pro se debtor will lose lots of time at work because the hearing was reset since she did not fill out the petition correctly.

Not only will she pay the $4000 to the trustee, but this pro se debtor will miss a few days of work trying to get her paperwork fixed and appearing at various hearings.

Pro se bankruptcy can hurt your career

I’ve personally seen situations where a pro se debtor was fired from their job because they kept missing work to attend various hearings on why their bankruptcy petition was messed up. Save yourself from a lot of heartache and pain.  Don’t try to do it by yourself. 

Walter Metzen

Walter Metzen is a Board Certified Specialist in Consumer Bankruptcy with over 28 years of experience. He’s represented more than 20,000 bankruptcy clients in and around Detroit where his firm is located. View his profile here.
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