Individuals filing for bankruptcy have the right to represent themselves. Some people are tempted to do so, reasoning that bankruptcy consists of simply filling out forms. However, in most cases, going into bankruptcy without an attorney is a risky course of action. According to recent statistics, people who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions through legal counsel have a 96 percent success rate in having their debts discharged, compared with 67 percent for filers who go it alone.
To begin with, a lawyer can help you complete the means test, by which the government determines whether you qualify to file for Chapter 7. This is a complex formula for calculating whether you have disposable income sufficient to repay some of your debts. There may be special circumstances in your case that make the means test easier to pass.
An experienced bankruptcy lawyer with an active practice in the debtor’s area will be thoroughly familiar with federal and state laws and with local rules and procedures. Even though bankruptcy is a federal court process, it is affected by state laws concerning debt enforcement. In addition, each bankruptcy court has its own local rules, which can vary from district to district.
The paperwork involved in a bankruptcy case is daunting. The laws and rules require detailed, accurate and timely submissions to the court and to other interested parties. There are multiple forms with questions that may be unclear or confusing. Incomplete information or documentation can cause a petition to be rejected. Debtor information that is incorrect can lead to dismissal of a case or, if fraudulent statements are found to have been made, the imposition of sanctions against the debtor. A qualified bankruptcy attorney knows what information needs to be collected and how to present it properly. In addition, attorneys have internal systems that cross-check information for accuracy and calendars to ensure all submissions are made on time.
An experienced bankruptcy lawyer is also adept at determining which property can be exempted from liquidation in a Chapter 7. Exemptions must be claimed and choosing the right ones can allow you to keep most or all of your valuable property.
A lawyer can also represent you in all official proceedings, including the initial creditors meeting that is part of every Chapter 7 case. If challenges are raised to the discharge of any of your debts, your lawyer will be on hand to defend you and seek the most positive outcome.
Jeff Field & Associates is a full-service bankruptcy and debt relief law firm representing debtors in Rome, Atlanta, Gainesville, Newnan, Macon and Athens, Georgia. Our lawyers have the knowledge, skills and experience to ensure that each client gets effective legal assistance. If you are being crushed by debt or face other serious financial issues, contact us online or call 404-381-1278 for an initial consultation.
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