There are several different ways to prepare a bankruptcy petition in a bankruptcy court. The first is the most common – hire a bankruptcy attorney. Your attorney will be required to electronically file your bankruptcy schedules and other bankruptcy related paperwork through your local court’s electronic service (called Pacer) after your attorney has prepared the paperwork, you have reviewed it and consent to it being filed.
Courts also allow debtors without attorneys (also known as “pro per” or “pro se” filers) to prepare and file the paperwork directly with the clerk of the Bankruptcy Court. This involves handing in the paperwork to a clerk, who will scan and input it into the court’s system. It’s a self-help system to allow people who cannot afford or do not want an attorney’s help to file.
Other non-attorneys called Bankruptcy Petition Preparers will charge a small fee to type the paperwork into bankruptcy software (or hand-write it in some cases). They advertise as being cheaper than attorneys and will claim to save time and skip the hassle of using an attorney. However, these preparers (sometimes called BPPs) can be more trouble than their fees.
The US Bankruptcy Court in California has permanently barred several petition preparers from helping people out. They have been barred for a number of reasons, including the unlawful practice of law and/or passing themselves off as real attorneys. They are not licensed attorneys. They are barred by United States Law from giving legal advice or pretending to be lawyers. Other preparers have been ordered to attend court to explain their behavior to judges, but have not been barred. That step could come at any time.
As long as petition preparers disclose their fees in the schedules, sign the required forms, and avoid giving legal advice, the Bankruptcy Code allows them to help prepare petitions. But many times they fail to do so and lie to the courts, telling people not to inform the court that they were used to prepare the paperwork. Does committing a crime by lying to the court and your bankruptcy trustee sound like a good idea? Nope! It’s not.
The only source of legal advice is to see an attorney, preferably one with a long history of experience in bankruptcy. It is well worth the extra money to protect assets, stop creditors, and ensure a successful bankruptcy.
If someone charges you a fee to prepare paperwork and instructs you to hide that fact, do the smart thing and go see a bankruptcy attorney immediately. To contact the Law Offices of Chirnese L. Liverpool and speak with a professional attorney with bankruptcy experience, please contact us at (818) 714-2200 in California, or visit our website at http://www.liverpoollegal.com
In North Carolina, the Maxwell Law Firm assists debtors with filing consumer bankruptcy. They can be reached at (704) 461-1883.
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