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Orlando Attorney Lewis Roberts

Bankruptcy: What to Know When Representing Yourself

Bankruptcy: What to Know When Representing Yourself

Bankruptcy is a complex legal procedure that can relieve a significant amount of financial stress. Because bankruptcy laws are complicated, individuals are strongly advised to hire legal counsel to represent them. However, some filers choose the DIY route. This should only be done with a strong understanding of certain information to avoid potential major pitfalls.

As an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, I can help you get the on-point guidance you need. 

Call Lewis Roberts, PA today at (407) 749-0080.

What to Know When Filing for Bankruptcy

Because there is no law that bankruptcy petitioners must hire attorneys, many attempt DIY bankruptcies. Although this course is not typically recommended, a small minority find success. Many more, however, find frustration and unintended outcomes for not having a sufficient understanding of certain important factors.

Your Petition Must Be Impeccable

The initial bankruptcy petition forms the basis for all subsequent bankruptcy proceedings. Bankruptcy courts scrutinize petitions for accuracy, completeness, and adherence to proper procedures. Filing your bankruptcy petition incorrectly can cause dismissal. Dismissals lead to significant time delays, which, in matters relating to credit and financing, can cause much damage.

Unfortunately, many DIYers see their petitions dismissed for the following reasons:

  • Failure to file or complete all necessary forms
  • Failure to submit all required financial documents, such as pay stubs and tax returns
  • Failure to attend the meeting of creditors
  • Failure to submit Social Security Card and Driver’s License
  • Failure to pay filing fees

These and other errors stymie DIYers’ bankruptcy efforts regularly. Bankruptcy lawyers, on the other hand, ensure that their clients’ petitions are filed without deficiencies.

Your Assets Are in Danger

As a person filing for bankruptcy, you must be aware that your assets may be in danger. Many filers understand this fact already but may not be aware of the implications. First, bankruptcies may threaten a filer’s assets. However, Florida law allows filers to protect certain assets from bankruptcy proceedings through the claiming of exemptions.

To enjoy this protection, Florida filers must proactively claim the exemptions in their petition. In other words, exemptions are not automatically applied in bankruptcy proceedings. Examples of exempt property in Florida include:

  • Homestead
  • $1,000 to $4,000 for personal property
  • $1,000 for motor vehicles (changing to $5,000 on July 1, 2024)
  • Disability income and benefits
  • Health savings account
  • Most public and government benefits.

These and other valuable exemptions can make a difference in your bankruptcy case — but only if you are aware of them and know how to claim them.

Your Friends and Family May Be Sued

Individuals filing for bankruptcy without counsel should understand that their friends and family members may end up being sued by the bankruptcy trustee. Bankruptcy involves a look-back period during which the bankruptcy trustee may review financial transactions for fraudulent activity. Fraudulent activity in these instances often involves a filer transferring assets to friends or family before filing for bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy trustees may set aside these transactions and seek to recoup the money or assets. Trustees may also seek payments made to friends and family for debts and loans if these payments occurred a short time before the filing and if creditors were ignored.

As your bankruptcy attorney, I will use both creative and tried-and-true solutions to help you build a better financial future.

Be Careful with Bankruptcy Petition Preparers

Bankruptcy petition preparation companies are not law firms, and their employees typically are not attorneys. As such, bankruptcy petition preparation companies can’t give legal advice. Doing so would be an unauthorized practice of law.

Because bankruptcy is a complex process, questions and issues inevitably arise. DIYers must not rely on bankruptcy guidance from non-attorneys — this often results in formidable problems. Many ultimately end up hiring lawyers.

Have Answers to All Vital Bankruptcy Questions Before Filing

When you are considering filing for bankruptcy, there are several questions you must ask yourself first. When you don’t have the guidance of a lawyer, you should have a clear answer to each of these questions:

  • Should I File Bankruptcy? Other viable, less-intensive options may be available instead of bankruptcy.
  • Am I Eligible? Determining eligibility is among the first tasks in bankruptcy.
  • What Bankruptcy Chapter Do I File Under? Individual filers choose between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
  • What Forms Do I Use? Improper forms can result in dismissal.
  • How Do I List Assets and Debts? Debts and assets must be properly listed and detailed.
  • How Do I Claim Exemptions? Exemptions apply only when properly identified and claimed.
  • How Do I Value My Assets? Proper asset appraisal is necessary for a fair process.
  • How Do I Prepare for a Means Test? A means test will compare a filer’s debts with their income and assets in Chapter 7 bankruptcies.
  • What Do I Bring With Me to the Hearing? You must arrive at court with all relevant documents.
  • What Do I Do at the Meeting of Creditors? All filers must attend a meeting of creditors during bankruptcy.
  • How Do I Behave in Court? Various formal and informal rules control court behavior. Knowing them is essential to a successful case.

Filers must know the answers to these and various other questions before filing. As mentioned, impeccable paperwork is the standard. Courts regularly dismiss cases for failure to properly prepare petitions.

If you choose to have an experienced bankruptcy attorney handle your case, you will not have to worry about many of these questions.

Protect Yourself with an Experienced Bankruptcy Attorney

Ultimately, filers get the most comprehensive protection of their interests through the services of bankruptcy attorneys. Once counsel is acquired, all of the legal details, rules, and codes become the responsibility of the filer’s attorney, giving petitioners a significant measure of peace of mind and better prospects of acquiring an optimal resolution.

Get Help from a Bankruptcy Lawyer

Bankruptcy is a powerful tool but must be used correctly. The learning curve for many of these procedures is quite steep. Those considering representing themselves should at least speak with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer for guidance and counsel.

My firm is ready to help you find solutions to your financial problems. If you need bankruptcy-related guidance, call (407) 749-0080 for a free consultation today.

Bankruptcy Lawyer Lewis Roberts

Attorney Lewis Roberts

The weight of debts that one cannot pay carries financial stress into every waking moment. It is time for this to end. Lewis Roberts, PA, offers solutions to relieve these worries. With over 20 years of experience in helping individuals overcome the burden of debt, bankruptcy attorney Lewis Roberts presents a range of options tailored to each unique situation. Clients can trust his advice on any matter related to debts, as he identifies appropriate options and explains the paths to debt relief clearly and carefully. This ensures that clients make the best decisions for their future. [ Attorney Bio ]