Why Hire a Bankruptcy Lawyer?
For those of us who have fallen behind on our finances, it can seem like every paycheck is a stretch. Every expense needs to be analyzed. Everything except for rent, food, and electricity is a luxury. So, if you are looking at bankruptcy as a solution to your debt issues, it may be very tempting to try doing it yourself. After all, what do you have to lose?
For some people, this might be the right answer. People with very few assets to protect, people who know exactly what debts they owe, and people who are extremely organized and great with paperwork might be able to get away with doing it themselves without a substantial drop off from what they would get from an attorney. But, most people have a complication (a home to protect, debt that is difficult to discharge, etc.) that needs the extra touch and experience that comes from hiring an experienced attorney.
So why should you hire a bankruptcy lawyer? It gives you the best chance of a great outcome in a case that will determine your entire financial future. And more specifically, there are few situations where we almost go so far as to say that having an attorney is an absolute necessity:
Where You Need to Protect Valuable Assets
Some people who file for bankruptcy have nothing but the clothes on their backs and the paycheck in their pockets. But most people have assets that they need to protect to get a head start on their life after a bankruptcy filing. This might include a house for their family, a car to get to work, or even tools that they use in their job.
The assets you keep in a bankruptcy filing are determined by a set of rules called “exemptions.” These exemptions list the types of property and the maximum value of each item, and it is up to you to determine whether your property fits into those exemptions. In some states, they give you a choice of multiple sets of exemptions (your exempt property must fit into rule set A or rule set B), and in other states, they have “wildcard” exemptions that can protect any property you choose, up to a certain value. And in still other states, you might be able to use your home exemption on personal property (assuming you don’t have a home to protect), while in others there may be no exemption for your home at all.
Can you see how this all gets very complicated, very quickly? The more property that you would like to protect, the more important it is to have an experienced eye look at your property and the various rule sets to see the best combination for you.
Where Your Debt is Difficult (or impossible to) Discharge
Past due medical bills? Those are pretty common and can probably be discharged. Personal loans? Again, it’s probably pretty easy to discharge.
Past due tax debt? Well, that will depend on which governing body assessed those taxes, how far in arrears they are, etc. What about spousal support arrears or child support arrears? Those might be nearly impossible to discharge at all, but you may be able to negotiate the amounts down or figure out a payment plan.
And then there is everyone’s favorite topic, student loans. Student loans are not impossible to discharge, but they are very difficult. To do so, you have to file a separate lawsuit outside of the bankruptcy and prove that the loans are unfairly ruining your life and making it hard to live. This “undue burden” standard is so difficult that many people, including many lawyers, falsely believe that it is technically impossible to eliminate student loans. It is not impossible, but you do need a very good lawyer and a compelling story to tell the court.
Where You Don’t Have Time to Pretend to Be a Lawyer
We’ve all been guilty of it: we get so stretched financially that we try to take on everything ourselves. Does the car need a brake job? “I might be able to afford a mechanic, but I’ll do it myself. Surely YouTube can teach me.” And is that a plumbing leak in the basement? “The last plumber tried to charge me $500 to unclog the drain.”
Just the idea of a lawyer sounds expensive. And if you are on a tight budget, the idea of hiring someone to try to fix your finances may sound laughable, given that you have so little money right now that you have fallen into debt and need to file bankruptcy.
Here is the great thing about expertise: once you have done something a few times, it becomes a lot faster to do it again. And the more you do something, the better you get at it—you learn tricks, see patterns, and find ways to do a job well that someone who is reading instructions off of the Internet probably won’t catch.
When it comes to addressing all of your past-due debt and getting you a fresh start in the future, an experienced attorney can probably do everything you could do for your bankruptcy in 1/10 of the time, and actually will likely do it better — finding exemptions that you might have missed, making sure paperwork is filed on time, etc. It may seem like the only thing you have is time, especially when you have no money, but the truth is that most of us who struggle financially are already working multiple jobs or caring for our children while working, and trying to take time away from something else to learn how to be a lawyer for one bankruptcy case just means less time to earn a paycheck or less time to spend with our families. In this case, a lawyer is not a luxury, it is a necessity, especially if you have one of the more complex bankruptcies involving difficult to discharge debt or many assets to protect.
Here bankruptcy attorneys.net, as you can imagine from our name, we help you locate an attorney in your area that can help you get your bankruptcy done, with all of the experience you need to get it done right. We would be happy to put you in touch with an attorney for a no-obligation consultation — get started today.