Recently the Bankruptcy Court revised its bankruptcy petition to make it more user friendly because it recognized that many people filing for bankruptcy were filing without the assistance of legal counsel. The bankruptcy petition is approximately 50 pages long. While it is a fill in the blank form more or less, you must be aware that there are many legal decisions that need to be made when completing the form.
Depending upon which option you choose, the legal consequence can be significant. Not only do you list your basic information – name, address, assets, liabilities, income and debts, but you also need to understand the different types of debt (priority, secured and unsecured) and your potential liability for each type. Just as important is your decision regarding which property to exempt from the bankruptcy. Which exemptions benefit you the most – the federal or state exemptions?
Other questions may arise when filling out the petition, such as: how will my filing for bankruptcy affect my spouse? Does my spouse’s income affect my ability to file under a certain chapter? Can I protect my retirement assets or will they be used to pay off my creditors? How much money can I have in the bank? Can I keep my car? Can I keep my house? These are all valid questions that need to be asked and answered before filing.
Anyone can fill out a bankruptcy petition, but not everyone can fill it out correctly. What happens when your petition is not filled out right? If it’s a clerical error, you will usually be allowed to correct it. If it is a legal error, you may be bound by it.
Typically, attorneys charge between $1,300.00 – $1,500.00 to prepare a petition and appear with you at your creditors’ meeting. Given the debt exposure that is typically at hand, it is money well spent to insure that the petition is correctly filled out and your interests are protected. If you are unable to afford these fees, it is wise to consult with a bankruptcy attorney before filling out your petition, or even hire a bankruptcy attorney to review your petition before filing. Bankruptcy can be a tricky path that needs to be navigated with care.
Attorney Catherine Becker Good, Esq.
Divorce and Mediation Lawyer
Legal Solutions Law Group
858 Washington St Suite 103
Dedham, Massachusetts 02026