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Filing for Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer is Risky

Produced by Attorney Mariah Jennings-Rampsi for MassLegalHelp
Reviewed October 2016

It is very hard to represent yourself in Bankruptcy.

Try to get a lawyer.

Bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal consequences.

Bankruptcy rules are very technical. A mistake or inaction could hurt you.

For example, your case can be dismissed if you do not

  • file a required document,
  • pay a fee on time,
  • attend a meeting or hearing, or
  • do what a judge, case trustee, U.S. trustee, bankruptcy administrator, or audit firm say.

You could lose your right to file another case, or lose protections, like the benefit of the automatic stay.

Or if you do not list property or properly claim it as exempt, you may not be able to keep it.

Or a judge could deny you a discharge of all your debts if you do something dishonest like destroying or hiding property, falsifying records, or lying.

Bankruptcy fraud is a serious crime; you could be fined and imprisoned.

The court will not treat you differently because you are filing for yourself. You must follow the rules.

You must be familiar with:

To be successful, you must:

  • fill out your bankruptcy forms correctly,
  • take the debt management course,
  • file the forms correctly and pay the fee,
  • send the required paperwork to the trustee,
  • attend the 341 creditors meeting,
  • go to any court hearings, and
  • respond to any motions or notices from the court.

Even if you do all these things you could still be hurt financially or could lose property.

You may be able to get a lawyer from your local legal services program.

Fill out the Bankruptcy Eligibility Questionnaire on Volunteer Lawyers Project’s Bankruptcy Program (VLP).

If you fill out the questionnaire you will get a faster response than if you call.

Filing without a lawyer

  • Bankruptcy is complicated. Filing without a lawyer is risky.
  • You can lose property and money. You can go to jail if you do not tell the truth.

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