The Difference Between An Experienced Bankruptcy Lawyer and A Petition Preparer
It is not a requirement of bankruptcy law to hire experienced bankruptcy lawyers or a bankruptcy preparer to help you file for bankruptcy. However, if you require help with the process, it may have crossed your mind if you should hire a bankruptcy attorney or a bankruptcy petition preparer. Generally an experienced bankruptcy lawyer will handle your case from start to finish. On the other hand, a bankruptcy petition preparer may only function as a typing service and prepare your bankruptcy forms under your strict direction.
What services can you expect a bankruptcy attorney to provide?
Similar to other attorney’s who specialize in other practice areas, bankruptcy attorneys must be licensed by the state bar to practice law.
If you instruct an experienced bankruptcy lawyer , it is his or her duty to guide you through the entire bankruptcy process. You should expect the attorney to:
- Inform you as to whether bankruptcy is in your best interest,
- Inform you under which Chapter you should file your case,
- Prepare your bankruptcy paperwork and file your case,
- Represent you at all bankruptcy hearings (for example the meeting of creditors), and
- Answer all your questions throughout the process, as well as respond to your emails in a timely manner,
- Provide you with legal advice throughout the process.
What services can you expect a bankruptcy petition preparer to provide?
Basically, a petition prepare offers a typing service and is not an attorney. Usually, most petition preparers have access to bankruptcy software programs that permit them to efficiently prepare and generate the required bankruptcy forms under your guidance and direction.
This was beneficial in the past, as forms weren’t available online. However, nowadays the bankruptcy forms are accessible online from the website of the U.S Courts. By virtue of the fact that petition preparers are not attorneys, they prohibited from:
- Advising you on the type of bankruptcy that is ideal for you,
- Explaining to you how to complete the bankruptcy forms,
- Representing you at bankruptcy hearings,
- Informing you what debts are dischargeable in bankruptcy,
- Informing you of the exemptions you should claim, or
- Providing advice on any other legal matters relating to your bankruptcy filing.
- Thus, a bankruptcy preparer will only type the forms according to the information you provide. You will still have to do the groundwork and research with respect to the operation of bankruptcy laws, the exemptions you should claim, the debts you may discharge, and the various other aspects of filing for bankruptcy.
Why should you hire experienced bankruptcy lawyers?
If you hire experienced bankruptcy lawyers, the legal aspects of your case will be handled by him or her from start to finish. Thus, all that will be required from you is to answer you attorney’s questions honestly, supply the information and documentation he or she requires, and ensure that you attend all mandatory bankruptcy hearings.
Since a bankruptcy attorney has been trained and is knowledgeable with respect to bankruptcy laws and the process, he or she will be able to advise and guide you throughout the process.
Accordingly, there is no downside to instructing a bankruptcy attorney apart from the cost thereof. Since, a bankruptcy attorney is able to provide you with the legal services that a bankruptcy petition preparer cannot, hiring an attorney will cost you substantially more than hiring a petition preparer.
What are the costs of hiring experienced bankruptcy lawyers?
Usually, the cost of experienced bankruptcy lawyers will depend on various factors, inter alia, the type of bankruptcy you want to file and the complexity of your case. However, you may expect to pay between $500 to $3,500 for a Chapter 7 and $2,500 to $6,000 for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
Why should you hire a petition preparer?
If you are willing to do the groundwork and put in the necessary time, it is possible for you to file a simple Chapter 7 bankruptcy without the assistance of an attorney, although, this is not advisable.
If you want to file on your own, you may access, complete and print the forms from the United States Courts’ website. In the majority of courts, you will also have to file some additional local forms.
In the event that you do not have access to a computer, or may not have the type to complete the forms, it may make sense to consider hiring a petition preparer. However, keep in mind that you will still have to do the research and collate the information required to complete the forms.
The preparer will only type out the information on the form, and cannot give you advice on how to complete the forms. As a result, petition preparers charge substantially lower fees than bankruptcy attorneys. The amount that a petition preparer may charge is limited by some courts. However, some petition preparers charge more than the limit and sometimes even as much as an experienced bankruptcy lawyers.