Can I File Bankruptcy Without an Attorney in Kansas?

Since the bankruptcy laws were changed in 2005, it is VERY HARD to file a bankruptcy petition without an attorney. The process is difficult and you may lose property or other rights if you do not know the law. The New York City Bankruptcy Assistance Project says, currently, about 9 out of 10 self-prepared bankruptcy petitions are being dismissed—that is, the debtor does not get relief from their debts.

Several Kansas debtors have ended up with federal criminal charges because they failed to disclose property and financial transactions in the bankruptcy cases they filed for themselves.

If you go ahead and file your case without an attorney (the court calls this pro se) and you make mistakes, you will spend more money to hire an attorney to fix your case than you would have if you had hired an attorney in the first place.  I once had a client with a cabinet business.  He thought he could not afford an attorney so he hired an out-of-state petition preparer over the Internet for $300.  The preparer was not supposed to give legal advice, but worse than no advice, he gave bad advice .  The cabinet maker filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy pro se and the trustee demanded shut down of his business, his way of making a living.

My cabinet maker had to borrow money from his father to pay me and to pay the trustee to settle his case and save his livelihood.  All of this drama could been avoided had he hired me from the get go.  It would have cost my client less and he would not have had to pay the trustee.

You can’t put the genie back in the bottle so your newly hired lawyer may not be able to fix all the damage you caused to yourself by filing a bankruptcy without an attorney.  For example, property rights are fixed on the date of filing of the bankruptcy.  If your chapter 7 trustee demands turnover of property, your attorney will not be able to change the date of filing.  It is too late for any prebankruptcy planning.  Your attorney might win a legal argument you didn’t make, but you’ll have to pay the trustee for your property to keep it, or lose it, if there is no valid argument to make.  You may have to convert to chapter 13 bankruptcy and pay for the property through a payment plan.

Warning: many attorneys will not accept a case after it is filed pro se by the debtor without an attorney so it may be difficult to find an attorney after your case is filed.

About Jill Michaux

Jill Michaux is a Kansas bankruptcy attorney. She can be found on Google+. She and her partner, Mark Neis, are Topeka's only board certified consumer bankruptcy law specialists.