Why should I use an attorney to file a personal bankruptcy?

While a corporation or partnership that files for bankruptcy must do so through an attorney, individual debtors who are filing for bankruptcy in Illinois are not required to do so. However, there are many benefits to filing for bankruptcy with the help of a legal professional. This is because there are many rules that must be followed, and not following all of them could compromise a debtor's rights.

For instance, if a debtor forgets to file a required document, the case could be thrown out. Additionally, this could mean that the case cannot be filed again in the future. If the case is allowed to be refiled, protections such as an automatic stay may not be available. In all cases, debtors must list their debts and all property owned. Failing to list a debt may result in that debt not being eligible for discharge.

Falsifying or concealing evidence in a bankruptcy case is considered fraud. Willfully failing to disclose any information requested by the court could also be labeled as fraud. Cases may be audited to determine how truthful and forthcoming a debtor was during the bankruptcy process. Overall, debtors are expected to know and follow all bankruptcy laws whether they represent themselves or are represented by an attorney.

Bankruptcy may be an effective way to eliminate or reorganize debt. It may also enable a debtor to obtain relief from collection calls or legal action being taken by creditors. While an attorney is not necessary for an individual who is filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it is often beneficial to hire a bankruptcy lawyer who can guide a client through the process.

Source: United States Bankruptcy Court Northern District of Illinois, "Filing Without an Attorney", October 18, 2014

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