3 benefits of hiring a bankruptcy attorney

Hiring a bankruptcy lawyer can help consumers understand their rights and options, avoid filing errors and know what to expect as the case progresses.

In a typical year, thousands of Cincinnati residents will navigate the complex and life-changing process of filing bankruptcy. Just during the first quarter of 2016, over 2,800 people in Hamilton County filed bankruptcy, according to a report from the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts. Unfortunately, despite the significant impacts that filing bankruptcy can have on a person's finances and future, many of these individuals may choose to handle this process independently.

Various factors, from financial concerns to self-confidence, may lead people to think their best option is forgoing legal representation when filing bankruptcy. However, these individuals are at risk for missing out on various distinct benefits that hiring a bankruptcy lawyer can offer.

1. Assessing all options

Determining whether bankruptcy is the right choice can be difficult, as can choosing an appropriate chapter of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to file under. The two chapters that most consumers file under vary significantly. Chapter 7 bankruptcy entails the liquidation of certain personal assets to satisfy outstanding liabilities, while Chapter 13 bankruptcy requires a repayment plan. A person's current financial situation and long-term goals can help determine which plan offers a better fit.

Most consumers can benefit from reviewing their legal rights and different potential resolutions with someone who has experience in bankruptcy law. After taking into account the nature of a person's debt, income, assets and objectives, an attorney may be able to offer advice on the most suitable means of resolving the outstanding debt.

2. Ensuring a successful filing

People who file bankruptcy independently are held to the same standards as people who seek legal assistance, according to materials from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio. A bankruptcy petition may be dismissed or denied on the basis of various innocent mistakes, including improper filing of the motion and failure to appear at a meeting of creditors. Furthermore, the clerk's office is legally prohibited from giving consumers advice regarding the bankruptcy filing process.

An attorney can handle the technical aspects of the filing process and make sure that easily avoided mistakes aren't made. An attorney may also be able to provide any advice that a consumer needs to prevent other harmful errors during the bankruptcy and debt discharge process.

3. Understanding what to anticipate

Filing bankruptcy can be a confusing and stressful undertaking, and many consumers do not know what to expect as their cases move forward. Many people may suffer from misconceptions about the following important aspects of bankruptcy:

  • The debts that are eligible for discharge
  • The tax implications
  • The lingering effects on personal credit and employability

An attorney may be able to help a person form more accurate expectations about the short- and long-term impacts of filing bankruptcy.

Moving forward with bankruptcy

People who are considering filing bankruptcy on their own may benefit from at least meeting with an attorney to gain a better understanding of the likely outcomes and potential risks. Many bankruptcy attorneys offer free initial consultations, so there is minimal risk in setting up a meeting. Taking this small step can help consumers reduce their likelihood of making misinformed or disadvantageous choices about their debt relief options.