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Do you need the services of a lawyer to file for bankruptcy in Chicago?

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, you are most likely exhausted financially. Naturally, it seems wise to eliminate any unnecessary expenses, and you may wonder if that includes attorney fees. Businesses (partnerships and corporations) must have an attorney. An individual is legally allowed to file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy pro se, or without legal representation; however, doing so may actually be the more costly option in the long term.

The rules and regulations governing bankruptcy are complex, and most people without legal training find them quite confusing. A single technical misstep can affect the rights of a debtor irreversibly. For example, simply failing to file a required form on time or accurately can result in dismissal of the case, which can prohibit the debtor from filing in the future, or limit the debtor’s rights in a future filing. The Federal Judiciary (Judicial Branch of the U.S. Government) strongly advises individual parties against filing a bankruptcy claim without an attorney due to the long-term legal consequences.

All debts and property must be listed on the debtor’s bankruptcy schedule. Any debt that has been omitted from this listing may not be discharged. Additionally, any dishonesty on the debtor’s part can result in the judge denying the discharge of all claimed debts. This includes, but is not limited to, hiding or destroying property, altering records and documents, or giving the court false information. Bankruptcy cases are randomly chosen for audit, and the completeness, truthfulness, and accuracy of all provided information is evaluated and verified.

Pro se litigants (individuals representing themselves) are held to the same rules, regulations, and requirements as those with legal representation. Therefore, to represent one’s self successfully requires a comprehensive understanding of the local courts, the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and the United States Bankruptcy Code. Even a simple mistake caries the risk of serious legal repercussions, especially if the mistake is in the debtor’s favor, bankruptcy fraud is a criminal offense. Other errors can have serious financial repercussions, if the debtor forfeits any rights or agrees to anything without fully understanding the meaning.

When appropriate, filing bankruptcy can provide an opportunity to take back and rebuild your life. Don’t gamble that important opportunity on the risk of a technical error.

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