If you’re considering filing bankruptcy, you may wonder if you can handle the task on your own. It’s important to understand that filing bankruptcy is a complex undertaking, and, while you are legally allowed to file by yourself, United States Bankruptcy Court often recommends working with a lawyer to ensure everything is filed properly and on time. For those who choose not to consult a legal representative, they’ll need to understand the pro se bankruptcy options in Maryland.
Understanding Pro Se Bankruptcy
As an individual dealing with insurmountable debt, you will most likely file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. Doing so takes careful preparation and a complex understanding of legal issues. If you choose to pursue a claim on a pro se basis—meaning without legal representation—you are expected to follow the rules and procedures in federal court. Additionally, you are expected to be familiar with the United States Bankruptcy Code, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy, and the local rules of the court where you file your case.
Bankruptcy forms are available to the public, free of charge. It’s important to use the proper forms when filing and to ensure you follow the steps of the bankruptcy type you choose to file. Failing to do so could result in a dismissal of your case and failure to have your debts discharged.
If you choose to file without an attorney, the general rule is the simpler your bankruptcy, the better your chances are of having your debts discharged. So, if your household income is less than the state median, you own little or no assets, and you don’t have any priority debts like child support or creditors alleging fraud against you, you may be able to handle the case on a pro se basis.
It’s important to note that if your Chapter 7 claim is complicated, you need to file Chapter 13, or you simply are leery about handling such a complex legal matter on your own, it’s in your best interests to seek reliable guidance from a law firm.
Common Pro Sec Bankruptcy Filing Errors
Filing for bankruptcy is a complicated process. Because of that, individuals who try to take on the task themselves often make mistakes. According to Maryland’s United States Bankruptcy Court, these are the top ten filing errors committed by self-represented parties:
- Failure to Submit a Certificate of Service. A Certificate of Service must be submitted with the required documentation when a person files for bankruptcy by themselves. This document establishes that you’ve mailed copies of all particular pleadings to all appropriate parties.
- Failure to Include Signatures. All forms and declarations must be signed where instructed to do so. Failing to sign even a single form can result in denial.
- Not Labeling Amended Pleadings Properly. All amended pleadings have to be labeled as such. If they’re not, the paperwork is not correct.
- Submitting Illegible Documents. It’s important that all documents be typed. This is why all bankruptcy forms are available in PDF fillable format on the Court’s website. Handwritten documents are often illegible.
- Filing Improper Captions or No Caption. All pleadings require a caption. A caption includes information about the debtor and creditors.
- Incomplete Summary of Schedules. The Summary of Schedules includes information about the debtor’s property and assets, like real property, personal property, property claims as exempt, etc. The document needs to be filled out in its entirety for the bankruptcy process to proceed.
- Failure to File a Certificate of Credit Counseling. In order to be eligible for bankruptcy, debtors are required to obtain credit counseling. If a person fails to do this within 180 days of being approved, they will not receive a discharge of their debts.
- Incorrect Amended List of Creditors. The Amended Creditor Matrix should only contain the names and addresses of the newly added creditors. An Amended Verification Form should be used to correct an insufficient address/returned mail. If this is not correct, processing will take longer.
- Incorrect Installment Fee Payments. If a debtor chooses to pay for the bankruptcy filing fee in installments, they must fully complete the application including dates, payment amounts, and an initial down payment.
- Failure to File Certificate of Debtor Education. Prior to filing, a financial management course is required. This is separate from credit counseling. Both courses are needed to complete the bankruptcy process and obtain a discharge of debts.
In order to avoid making mistakes during the bankruptcy filing process, it’s in your best interests to work with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer.
Benefits of Working With a Bankruptcy Attorney
To ensure the best chances of securing your financial future and managing or resolving your debt, a Baltimore bankruptcy attorney from Belsky & Horowitz, LLC can help. When you work with us, we’ll advise you on if bankruptcy is right for you, under which chapter to file, whether all of your debts can be discharged, potential tax consequences, and whether you are not you’ll be able to keep your home, car, or other property.
Prior to filing, you’ll want to understand what all of your options are. If bankruptcy is the route you choose, there is a lot of preparation involved and we’ll need to collect detailed information on your debts, income, assets, and property.
We’ll also be sure to explain the applicable bankruptcy laws and procedures to you, so you understand what’s happening every step of the process. This includes helping you complete and file all the necessary paperwork, so you can move forward with liquidating your assets or reorganizing your debt.
Once the bankruptcy process is over, we can provide guidance and suggestions for rebuilding your credit and setting you up for financial success.
Learn About Your Options With Belsky & Horowitz, LLC
If you’re struggling financially to the point where debt has become overwhelming, it may be time to reach out to a bankruptcy lawyer. While we can help you determine if filing is the right choice for you, we may also be able to provide information on other ways you can pursue debt relief without it affecting your credit.
To learn more about how an attorney can guide you through the bankruptcy process or if you have questions about pro se bankruptcy options in Maryland, schedule a consultation with Belsky & Horowitz, LLC today. We provide legal guidance and representation to those in Baltimore and the surrounding areas. Contact us today to learn more about getting back on your feet and securing your financial future.