Filing a bankruptcy petition to eliminate or lessen the burden of debts is a personal choice that is usually made under less than ideal circumstances. Many people believe that filing bankruptcy in Miami can remedy their financial situation even without the need of an experienced Miami bankruptcy lawyer. Moreover, not only do some people pick general practitioners with little or no current knowledge of bankruptcy matters, but they also choose to go about it with a paralegal or without an attorney altogether.
Although it is true that an attorney is not required to file bankruptcy papers, it is important that debtors not represented by an attorney can answer the following questions. Firstly, if a non-attorney (called a bankruptcy petition preparer in bankruptcy court) helps you with a bankruptcy petition and schedules, you must be ready to tell the bankruptcy trustee (the government official in charge of your case who reviews your filed documents) the following information:
- How did you find the bankruptcy preparer?
- How much did you pay the bankruptcy preparer to prepare your bankruptcy documents?
- Did this amount include the court filing fee?
- How much do you owe such bankruptcy preparer or his company?
Bankruptcy preparers must provide you with federal disclosures, including 11 U.S. Code Section 527, which provides in pertinent part that all petition preparers and attorneys must provide debtors a written contract with detailed information as to what is being charged and what services are to be performed.
In addition, according to this federally required disclosure, you also have the right to see the contract before you pay or sign any paperwork. Remember, bankruptcy petition preparers cannot give you legal advice. By federal law, they can only provide you with the forms and also fill them in without providing you any sort of assistance. Most importantly, they cannot tell you which type of bankruptcy is best for you or recommend which course of action is best for you to minimize or eliminate your debt.
The legislative history shows that the BACPA amendments to the Bankruptcy Code in 2005 were created in part to overcome the overreaching by non-attorney petition preparers and other unscrupulous individuals on the consumer. Although these disclosures and new amendments have made the bankruptcy process a little bit safer to navigate in terms of consumer protection, it is now considerably more tedious to commence and complete a bankruptcy case without an attorney. In essence, the informed consumer needs to utilize an experienced bankruptcy attorney in Miami who understands the bankruptcy process if one is chosen. If a consumer decides to file without an attorney, and a bankruptcy petition preparer is utilized, the preparer may not provide you with any information that may help you decide what to do in your particular circumstances.