The short answer is no, you are not obligated to have a lawyer in order to file for bankruptcy in New York. On the other hand, when dealing with an issue of such legal and financial significance, and where you may lose assets if you don’t understand the law, it can be worth it to hire an attorney to advise and guide you through the process.
What would I have to do to file by myself?
Filing for bankruptcy can be fraught with confusing jargon and deadlines. From the start, a White Plains bankruptcy lawyer can determine whether to pursue a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy depending on more that simply determining which one you qualify for. A bankruptcy attorney can help you determine how to best protect your assets and can take into account your unique personal circumstances in making a recommendation as to which type of bankruptcy is best for you.
Your next step is itemizing your current income, monthly living expenses, debts, and personal and real property. You should also look over your tax returns for the last two years, deeds to any real estate you own or on title to, the title to your car(s), and documentation related to any loans you may have.
If you choose to move forward without legal representation, you will need to determine which property of yours is exempt from liquidation for the benefit of your creditors and what set of exemptions is best for your circumstances. After this, you can file your case with the bankruptcy court. On these forms, you will be asked to describe your current financial status and recent transactions. Not filing correctly or honestly can jeopardize not only your assets but also whether or not you can get a discharge.
Bankruptcy Attorneys: Worth the Cost
Bankruptcy cases need to be filed and handled correctly because the rules governing them are technical and any mistake could potentially prevent you from having relief from your debts or worse, losing property that is important to you or which you want to keep. If any of these things happen, hiring a lawyer after they happen can be much more costly than if you had hired a lawyer from the very beginning.
In addition, in Chapter 7 bankruptcy you do not have the right to dismiss your case and need permission of the Court to do so. So, you cannot count on dismissing your case if something goes wrong.
In the end, given the amount of time and work needed to prepare and file a working bankruptcy petition, getting advice from an attorney who practices bankruptcy law and understands how bankruptcy works in New York can be a great advantage when it comes to protecting your assets and securing your financial future.