Should you file bankruptcy pro se?
Say what? Pro Se. Pro Se is Latin for by oneself or without an attorney. So should you file bankruptcy pro se? I don’t know, how smart are you? You may be a perfectly capable and very intelligent person but there is a great deal of debate going on about whether or not you should file bankruptcy pro se because one mistake can foul up an entire bankruptcy outcome.
I like to think that I could have filed bankruptcy pro se but I’ll never know because I opted to hire an attorney. It was comforting to know that there was going to be someone with me at my 341 hearing (meeting of the creditors) and I wanted to be able to refer creditors to someone else.
My phone was ringing off the hook and I had stopped answering the phone. Not only were they calling me at home; some were calling me at work and a couple even contacted my relatives. Once I retained my attorney, I started answering the phone and gave each creditor, one by one, my attorney’s name and number. My phone did not go completely silent but grew much, much quieter. This was a huge relief.
One reason that you may want to file bankruptcy pro se is obvious. You have NO money. Hiring an attorney is expensive and you have no idea how you are going to come up with the dough.
The good news is that many bankruptcy attorneys will let you pay them off over time. They will not file until they have been paid in full (including the filing fee) but may handle creditor calls for you in the meantime. This is a good question to ask when interviewing potential attorneys.
Another reason you may want to file pro se is to be the master of your own destiny. After all, who cares more about your bankruptcy than you do? Well, that makes sense but can also be risky. Your best bet is to educate yourself, hire a good attorney and then stay on top of all proceedings. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you think something might be overlooked.
Many people filing bankruptcy on their own make mistakes that cost them a successful discharge. Still many do file bankruptcy pro se successfully. The decision is yours to make so make it carefully. If you do decide to file bankruptcy pro se, buy a good book on the subject but make sure it is up to date with the current bankruptcy laws. The Nolo Press books have a good reputation amongst pro se filers.
Good luck whatever you decide!