Posted by Ryan Blay on October 25th, 2011 in Bankruptcy, Bankruptcy Crimes, Bankruptcy Information, Bankruptcy procedures, Illinois, Wisconsin
There are several different ways to prepare a bankruptcy petition in a bankruptcy court. The first is the most common – hire an attorney. Your attorney will be required to electronically file your bankruptcy schedules, plan (if you have a Chapter 11, 12, or 13) and other paperwork through your local court’s electronic service after helping prepare and review everything.
Courts also allow debtors without attorneys (“pro se” filers) to prepare and file the paperwork directly with the clerk of the Bankruptcy Court. This involves handing in the paperwork to a clerk, who will scan and input it into the court’s system. It’s a self-help system to allow people who cannot afford or do not want an attorney’s help to file.
Other non-attorneys called Bankruptcy Petition Preparers will charge a small fee to type the paperwork into bankruptcy software (or hand-write it in some cases). They advertise as being cheaper than attorneys and will claim to save time and skip the hassle of using an attorney. However, these preparers (sometimes called BPPs) can be more trouble than their fees.
The US Bankruptcy Court in Milwaukee has permanently barred 7 petition preparers from helping people out. They have been barred for a number of reasons, including passing themselves as real attorneys. They are not, and are barred by United States Law from giving legal advice or pretending to be lawyers. Other preparers have been ordered to attend court to explain their behavior to judges, but have not been barred. That step could come at any time.
As long as petition preparers disclose their fees in the schedules, sign the required forms, and avoid giving legal advice, the Bankruptcy Code allows them to help prepare petitions. But many times they fail to do so and lie to the courts, telling people not to inform the court that they were used to prepare the paperwork. Does committing a crime by lying to the court and your bankruptcy trustee sound like a good iea? It’s not.
The only source of legal advice is to see an attorney, preferably one with a long history of experience in bankruptcy. It is well worth the extra money to protect assets, stop creditors, and ensure a successful bankruptcy.
If someone charges you a fee to prepare paperwork and instructs you to hide that fact, do the smart thing and go see an attorney immediately. To contact Lakelaw and speak with a professional attorney with bankruptcy experience, please contact us at 866-LAKELAW, (262) 694-7300 in Wisconsin, or visit our website at www.lakelaw.com