There was a time when if you wanted to file for bankruptcy you had to use a lawyer – or spend an awful lot of time pouring over books and reading forms to figure out how to do it yourself. Now, we live in the internet age and a lot of preparation can be done online. You can get advice, download forms (Even fill them out in some states) and find out everything you need to know about how to apply for bankruptcy.
Does that mean that there is no need for an attorney? Not necessarily. Attorneys have a lot to offer people who are filing for bankruptcy for the first time and who don’t have the time or knowledge to put their own application together. They can help people who may need special dispensation or permission to keep particular assets during the filing. For example, a lot of the time when you go bankrupt if you own a car you may be asked to sell it – they can help you keep it if you can prove that you need it for your job.
A bankruptcy attorney can also help people whose cases are complicated. If you’ve gone bankrupt more than once, or if you are in a position where you fear that you might be accused of mismanaging your finances deliberately (as opposed to having a run of bad luck, ill health, or making bad decisions that were not an attempt at fraud) then you might want to seek advice from an attorney that can help you to prepare for the questions that you might face, and that can advocate for you in the proceedings.
Bankruptcy attorneys don’t just deal with ‘going bankrupt’ they also deal with bankruptcy protections and restructuring for companies, and sometimes with arrangements with creditors.
Bankruptcy is a huge decision and it is not something that should be entered into lightly. If you’re concerned that you are going to end up having to file for bankruptcy, then the first thing you should do is talk to a debt advisor and work out if there are other options for paying down your debts. For smaller amounts, some form of payment arrangement could work out better for you than a bankruptcy. Your credit rating will be affected either way, so it comes down to whether an arrangement with creditors would allow you to continue serving in your job or having certain roles with a volunteer organization, or whether the clean slate of going bankrupt might be better for you. These, again, are things that an attorney would be qualified to discuss with you and that you will find might be invaluable. Do not make major financial decisions without talking to someone who is qualified. Do not put yourself in a position where you could lose your assets, or find yourself unable to hold certain jobs until you are discharged – unless you are certain that such action is the best one for you.