How to Go Bankrupt Without a Lawyer

By Teo Spengler

When you want to avail yourself of bankruptcy protection, an attorney comes in handy. Legal representation is mandatory for business entities that file for bankruptcy, but individuals can represent themselves. If you decide to file your own bankruptcy petition, learn about the law and procedures before jumping in.

Bankruptcy Laws

Bankruptcy laws offer individuals and businesses who cannot pay their creditors a chance to start again either by paying debts with liquidated assets or by setting up a realistic repayment plan. However, the procedure is technical and mistakes can affect your rights. The complex rules apply to individuals representing themselves as well as those represented by attorneys.

Study Laws and Procedures

Filling out a bankruptcy petition might not look very difficult, but before you begin, take the time to inform yourself about the different types of bankruptcy and federal court procedures. The forms and instructions are available from the court and also from online legal document providers. Review everything you will need for the process before taking the first formal step.

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Diligence and Precision

Bankruptcy forms must be completed like take-home exams, not off the top of your head. For example, when you are asked to list property and debts, dig through your files to be sure nothing is left out or forgotten. Omissions can have serious financial consequences. Even if you don't hire an attorney to represent you in court, you might consider hiring an attorney just to review your documents, or using a federal court facilitator, if available.

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Can You File Chapter 7 When Bills Are Current?


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How to Reinstate a Dismissed Bankruptcy

At the conclusion of your bankruptcy case, you typically will receive a bankruptcy discharge. A bankruptcy discharge means that all of the debts that are included in your bankruptcy case are erased and your creditors cannot pursue collection action against you to enforce the debts, like filing a civil lawsuit. During the bankruptcy case, you can ask the court to dismiss your case, or the court may dismiss your case on its own, and you will not receive a bankruptcy discharge. However, you can ask the bankruptcy court to reinstate your bankruptcy if it is dismissed by the court.

How Long Is an Automatic Stay After a Chapter 13 Dismissal?

Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy creates a repayment plan that allows you to catch up on debt by making monthly payments over three to five years to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee. However, your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case may be dismissed before you complete your repayment plan for several reasons, including if you fail to make your monthly payments to your Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee or if you miss a required court appearance. The dismissal of your bankruptcy case has several consequences -- including the loss of the protection of the automatic stay.

What Happens When Chapter 13 Is Dismissed?

Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to create a three- to five-year repayment plan to catch up on your debts. If your case is dismissed, either by you or the bankruptcy court, prior to completion of the repayment plan, you will not receive a bankruptcy discharge, which erases the debts covered by your bankruptcy case and makes them unenforceable by your creditors.

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