After reading Part I, you now know that the bankruptcy petition preparer had to present you with a written contract, payment terms and examples of work to be done but they could not give you any legal advice. ( See Blog Archive-Florida Bankruptcy Without an Attorney -Part I.) If you have read Part II, you understand that there are many things that a bankruptcy petition preparer cannot do or say under bankruptcy law. (See Blog Archive-Florida Bankruptcy Without an Attorney- Part II.) The important question is, even if you know the limitations of filing the bankruptcy petition and schedules by yourself or with a bankruptcy petition preparer, why would you still want to file a Florida bankruptcy without an attorney?
The purpose of this blog article is to examine the main reasons why people file a bankruptcy case without an attorney instead of using an experienced bankruptcy attorney even when they know the limitations of not using one. It seems that the reasons are few but important, amongst these most common ones are the following: 1) the attorney is too expensive 2) the case is simple and 3) I have the forms to file the case and the clerk’s office website to help me.
The main reason many people forego the use of a Miami bankruptcy attorney is that there is the anticipation that the costs and fees of filing the bankruptcy case are too expensive. After all, the person is filing bankruptcy and money is usually a consideration to be considered. Fortunately, for people who may need a bankruptcy filing, the costs and fees associated with their case are governed by the bankruptcy law of each attorney practicing law. For instance, in a chapter 13 case, there are specific limits to amounts that may be charged by an attorney for ordinary services. Any amounts that an attorney may want to charge must be requested and approved, after hearing by a bankruptcy judge. In chapter 7 cases, most ordinary cases hover between $1000 and $1500 in attorney’s fees, with some attorneys adding court costs and other associated administrative fees with filing for an additional $400 to $500 on average in the southern district of Florida. Most bankruptcy attorneys will enter into payment plans with their clients if asked. There is no legal or statutory requirement for payment limits to the person paying a bankruptcy petition preparer. Any person considering a bankruptcy petition preparer must do their due diligence to make sure that they are paying what is reasonable and allowed under the law.
Many people go to a bankruptcy preparer because they think their case is simple. Because a bankruptcy petition preparer may not give legal advice, the client faces the possibility that they may be filing a bankruptcy without need to (because other legal alternatives may not be provided). The person filing a bankruptcy case with a bankruptcy preparer may be filing the wrong chapter of bankruptcy because the bankruptcy petition preparer may not give their opinion as to what type of bankruptcy may be filed. In addition, the filing of a bankruptcy case may result in the loss of assets, income and possible loss of the ability to get the debt eliminated if a person does not consult an attorney. At first glance, these situations are important and damaging enough that it doesn’t make sense not to hire an attorney.
Lastly, many people consider the fact that forms are available a reason not to use a bankruptcy attorney. For starters, the clerk of the Miami bankruptcy court does not give legal advice. They only take your filing fee and make sure your required signatures are received and filed. The clerk of court may direct you to a free clinic where attorneys voluntarily provide their time to consumers who are filing bankruptcy. However, because these free clinics are not available and there are strict deadlines for filing documents in bankruptcy cases, you may find that the help sought may not be available when needed. More importantly, even if the assigned bankruptcy trustees and judges go out of their way to continue bankruptcy matters to allow you time to get your affairs in order or to get attorney help, if you do not get these affairs in order, you may suffer irreparable damage that a later hired bankruptcy attorney may not be able to undo. Because there is a lot of misinformation on the internet, and bankruptcy case law is many time specific to the jurisdiction it comes from, people should not rely on the internet, on forms alone, and should not depend on the help of the courts or clerk. In fact, there is no substitute for an experienced bankruptcy attorney in your jurisdiction.