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Common Mistakes for Individuals Filing Pro Se in Bankruptcy

pro se bankruptcy.jpgDetermining whether bankruptcy is the right decision for you depends on a number of factors. Over the past few years, there has been an increase in pro se bankruptcy filings. In fact, western states have the highest percentage of people filing for chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy without the assistance of an attorney. Most consumers file for bankruptcy hoping that it will afford them a fresh start, but federal reforms to bankruptcy laws in 2005 have made consumer bankruptcy cases more complex. It is important to understand common mistakes that can be made along the way for individuals who have considered filing for bankruptcy without an attorney.

Bankruptcy May Not Be the Best Option

It may be that bankruptcy is the wrong option for you in the first place. Individuals should start by exploring all of their debt relief options and understanding what can and cannot be accomplished in bankruptcy. You must take the time to evaluate your specific financial situation and research the types of debt that would or would not be dischargeable in bankruptcy.

Choosing the Wrong Bankruptcy Chapter

Most individuals file for either chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy. For a more extensive review of chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcies, please see our article about navigating the differences between the two. An individual must qualify for chapter 7 bankruptcy and the process generally involves selling assets to discharge debts. Chapter 13 allows individuals to develop a plan demonstrating how they will repay their debts over a period of time in exchange for keeping certain valuable property. It is important to understand the pros and cons of both categories and to take your specific financial situation into account.

Not Using Proper Exemptions

Exemptions vary from state to state. California does not use the federal exemptions, so a debtor filing in this state must use state exemptions. There are two sets of exemptions to choose from and you can only select one. The exemptions have different implications depending on whether you are filing for chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy. These exemptions can help consumers protect their assets, but choosing the wrong ones could be a very costly mistake.

You Should Speak with a Bankruptcy Attorney

When it comes to filing for bankruptcy, it can be easy to think that you have a straightforward case. However, properly filing and preparing for bankruptcy can be the difference between keeping and losing valuable assets. Even if you would ultimately like to represent yourself, talking to an attorney prior to filing for bankruptcy can help you avoid these common and potentially costly mistakes.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy in California, you can contact a skilled San Jose bankruptcy law attorney today to discuss your legal options. Our firm is here to help you through the process and answer the questions that may arise. Contact our San Jose Chapter 7 lawyers online or call 408-971-6270 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your situation.



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  • Santa Clara County Bar Association | 1917
  • American Inns of Court
  • CWL | California Woman Lawyers
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  • The State Bar of California
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