Beware of Non-Attorney Bankruptcy Petition Preparers

bankruptcy-petitionWhen you’re experiencing money trouble, anything that saves a buck can seem attractive. Can you get a fresh start on the cheap by enlisting the services of a “bankruptcy petition preparer”?

As with most things in life, you’ll get what you pay for. Because bankruptcy petition preparers aren’t lawyers, they can’t practice law. This means they can’t give you legal advice, and they can’t represent you in bankruptcy proceedings. Instead, a petition preparer provides limited clerical assistance to people who represent themselves in bankruptcy court.

What Can a Petition Preparer Do?

According to the United States Trustee Program, a bankruptcy petition preparer cannot offer any of these services:

  • Advising whether or when to file for bankruptcy;
  • Explaining the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or recommending one over the other;
  • Explaining whether a particular debt will be discharged;
  • Explaining the effect of bankruptcy on a foreclosure or eviction;
  • Explaining what information is needed to fill out a bankruptcy petition;
  • Advising the customer on what information goes where;
  • Advising the customer on how to claim exemptions;
  • Explaining or advising how to classify debts as secured, priority, or unsecured;
  • Advising or otherwise helping the customer with a reaffirmation agreement;
  • Providing information or advice on redeeming property that’s been pledged as collateral for a debt; or
  • Helping or representing the customer at the meeting with the bankruptcy trustee.

A petition preparer is a typing service that does just one thing: fill out the official bankruptcy forms with whatever you tell them to type, regardless of whether your instructions are legally correct. Once that’s done, you’re on your own.

Bankruptcy Attorneys Provide Full Service, from Start to Finish

As I’ve written before, there’s much more to bankruptcy than filling out the forms. Seek professional help from a licensed attorney who will advise and represent you throughout the entire process. To schedule a consultation at my Indianapolis office, all you have to do is call 317.454.8188.

Matt Conrad is an Indianapolis bankruptcy attorney and the founder of Conrad Legal LLC, which helps people in Central Indiana get out of debt with Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

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