Filing for bankruptcy “pro se” means that an individual represents himself or herself in the bankruptcy process. It is a risky decision and there are a number of pitfalls associated with the same. Filing for bankruptcy has a complex set of rules, forms, statutes and judicial decisions. Some people choose to represent themselves because they think they cannot afford to hire a bankruptcy attorney or they may think they have a simple case. Whatever the reasoning, it is not a wise decision.
Here are some of the most common problems with filing for bankruptcy pro se (without an attorney):
Filing the wrong type of bankruptcy– Each type of bankruptcy is designed to solve specific problems. Property is treated very differently when it comes to Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. If you file the wrong Chapter bankruptcy, you run the risk of losing valuable property or end up not being able to discharge certain debts.
Losing property you should have been able to keep– Filing for personal bankruptcy allows you to claim “exemptions,” which can save your home, even your business. If you are filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida, you can use Florida bankruptcy exemptions to protect your property. Florida has one of the most generous homestead exemptions in the country. To use Florida’s exemptions, you must have resided in Florida for at least 730 days before filing your bankruptcy petition. Here are the most common Florida bankruptcy exemptions.
Not properly filling out the bankruptcy forms– When filing for bankruptcy, you will have to fill out much more than a standard bankruptcy petition. You will be expected to submit dozens of supporting documentation, listing every single debt, all of your creditors and all of your assets. If you make a mistake or miss something, costly delays can result. Not to mention, you run the risk of your case being completely dismissed and rejected all together.
Continued creditor harassment– When you hire an attorney to file your bankruptcy, creditors are required by law to only speak with your attorney and may no longer harass you about your debt. If you choose to represent yourself in bankruptcy, the lender may try and lift the automatic stay, which is what protects your from continued creditor calls while your bankruptcy is ongoing. A consumer has specific rights when a creditor violates the automatic stay.
Failing to take required education courses– In Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers must take approved credit counseling courses before filing for bankruptcy, and complete a financial management course before receiving their bankruptcy discharge. Many pro se filers get confused about these requirements and if they fail to file the proper certificate, their entire case can be dismissed.
Failure to understand the above concepts will be problematic if a creditor challenges the dischargeability of a debt or if the bankruptcy trustee alleges you have committed fraud—or anything else that could crop up during the case. When you find yourself on the receiving end of a complaint or motion, an attorney is essential to your success.
If you have any questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.