Do you need a lawyer when facing difficult financial times? In theory, you can handle all of the paperwork necessary to file for bankruptcy without the help of a lawyer. For many looking to file in the near future, the thought of paying a lawyer seems almost impossible. After all, you would not be in this financial mess if you had the money laying around to pay lawyer's fees, right? While this is a legitimate concern, you should still consider hiring a lawyer. To go through the process without a bankruptcy attorney could mean that you lose your case and are refused the protections due under the law. Representing yourself could also cause you to lose valuable assets and family heirlooms to your creditors.
Truthfully, the law does not require a lawyer when individuals file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Simple Chapter 7 cases can often be successfully handled without the help of a law professional. However, individuals rarely have the expertise and understanding necessary to file Chapter 13 without one.
In Chapter 13 cases, debtors must draft a detailed plan, negotiated with creditors and the trustee's office, and figure out a way in which they could potentially pay back their debts while protecting much of their assets. A bankruptcy attorney has the expertise necessary to create a workable plan that will also be acceptable to the courts and the creditors. A lawyer will also handle all paperwork, thus ensuring that your case is not dismissed because you missed some correspondence from your trustee or failed to respond in a timely manner.
Also, whether you are filling Chapter 13 or Chapter 7, if you have a valuable asset, such as a home with a significant amount of equity in it, you need the help of a lawyer to do all that you can to legally protect that asset. The cost of the lawyer's fees is far less than the monetary and emotional cost of losing a valuable asset, like your home, that would have been protected under the law if you had filed correctly.
If you are still unsure about hiring a bankruptcy attorney, make an appointment with a few of them. Most lawyers will offer a free or minimal cost consultation to potential new clients. At the consultation, they will explain to you how they can help and what their fees will be. This will help you better evaluate whether or not you can benefit from their services. Chances are that you will decide the cost of a bankruptcy attorney is worth the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you are receiving the full protection due to you through your state's laws.
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