Do you need an attorney to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

Mississippi residents who are contemplating filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy are likely to have limited financial means. Also known as asset liquidation, Chapter 7 is often an appropriate option for those who owe overwhelming amounts and have little realistic hope of making inroads on repayment of such debt. While Chapter 7 can be an effective solution to overwhelming debt, some Mississippi residents may worry that they cannot afford a bankruptcy attorney.

Chapter 7 for individuals, however, can be extremely difficult without an attorney. While certain entities, such as corporations, are required to have a lawyer in order to file bankruptcy, individuals are technically allowed to file "pro se," or minus an attorney. This may be tempting to those coping with financial challenges, but going it alone may cause more problems in the long run.

Bankruptcy cases can be highly technical, and just one mistake can derail an individual's case as well as chances for future protections. Those who file must be familiar with the rules found in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code as well as Mississippi-specific laws and Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. Filing for Chapter 7 involves processing the proper paperwork according to important timelines, as well as listing personal debts properly. If a debt is forgotten, for example, the debtor may lose the chance to have that debt discharged.

One of the most dangerous aspects of filing without an attorney is that a filer may accidentally do something which appears dishonest. If a judge perceives that a debtor was dishonest, the judge can deny all of the debts which the debtor wants to be discharged. In addition, a person may potentially be accused of bankruptcy fraud, which is a criminal offense.

The knowledge of a bankruptcy attorney can be invaluable during tough financial times. An initial consultation can clear-up many of the questions surrounding Chapter 7 bankruptcy eligibility, as well as the filing process.

Source: UScourts.gov, "Filing for bankruptcy without an attorney," accessed Dec. 28, 2014

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