Our Bankruptcy Blog

Why DIY Bankruptcy May Not Be a Good Idea

Bankruptcy represents a complex legal proceeding with a myriad of procedures and laws that can seem quite overwhelming to the uninitiated.

Despite its complexities, some individuals opt to file bankruptcy themselves, a process known as “pro se” or DIY (do-it-yourself) bankruptcy.

While it might seem like an attractive option, particularly for those keen on saving attorney fees, it’s important to understand the potential risks and pitfalls.

This article will outline the reasons why DIY bankruptcy may not be your best course of action, and why an experienced bankruptcy attorney can ensure the best results for your financial future.


1. Complexity of Bankruptcy Laws

Bankruptcy laws are incredibly complex, filled with legalese that can confuse even the most educated layperson. The U.S. Bankruptcy Code, the primary source of bankruptcy laws, is a vast and complicated document.

Understanding its rules, exceptions, and nuances requires a significant amount of study and expertise. Misinterpreting the law or failing to apply it correctly can have dire consequences, potentially resulting in your bankruptcy case being dismissed or, even worse, allegations of bankruptcy fraud.


2. Risk of Errors

When you file for bankruptcy, you are required to complete and submit several forms that detail your assets, debts, income, and expenses. These forms require meticulous detail and accuracy.

Errors or omissions, even if unintentional, can jeopardize your case. Inaccurate information can lead to assets being unnecessarily liquidated in Chapter 7 or payments being inflated in Chapter 13. Worse, it could lead to allegations of fraud, which could result in criminal charges.


3. Difficulty in Property Exemption

When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’re allowed to keep certain property deemed “exempt,” meaning it cannot be sold to repay creditors. Determining which exemptions apply to you can be a complex process, as it involves both federal and state laws.

A single mistake could result in losing property that you might have been able to keep with the help of an attorney.


4. Means Test Complications

The means test, a requirement for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, determines if your income is low enough for you to file under this chapter. It involves comparing your monthly income to the median income in your state and accounting for your expenses and secured debt payments.

Errors in the means test can lead to filing under the wrong chapter or your case being dismissed entirely.


5. Inability to Negotiate with Creditors

An attorney doesn’t just guide you through the bankruptcy process; they can also negotiate with your creditors. In a Chapter 13 case, for instance, an attorney can negotiate the terms of your repayment plan to ensure they’re manageable.

Without legal representation, you’re left to navigate these negotiations on your own, which can lead to less favorable outcomes.


6. Missing Deadlines and Requirements

Bankruptcy involves numerous deadlines — for filing forms, making payments, and more. Additionally, you’re required to meet certain obligations, like credit counseling and debtor education. Missing a deadline or failing to meet a requirement could result in your case being dismissed.

While you could keep track of these deadlines yourself, having an attorney ensures you stay on top of all necessary tasks and dates.


7. Lack of Legal Advice

One of the biggest drawbacks of DIY bankruptcy is the absence of professional legal advice. An attorney can provide guidance on key decisions, such as the type of bankruptcy to file and how to protect your assets best. Without an attorney, you could make choices that have negative long-term consequences.


8. Potential Loss in Long-term Savings

While it might seem like you’re saving money by not hiring an attorney, this can often be short-sighted. Mistakes in the bankruptcy process can lead to higher debt repayments or loss of assets, which could outweigh the cost of hiring a professional.

An attorney can help protect your interests and possibly save you money in the long run.


9. Stress and Time

Filing for bankruptcy can be a stressful process, even with an attorney. When you’re doing it on your own, the stress can be even greater. There’s the time and effort required to understand and navigate the legal system, and the emotional toll of dealing with creditors, trustees, and the court.

Having an attorney can alleviate much of this stress, allowing you to focus on rebuilding your financial future.


10. Decreased Success Rate

Studies have shown that the success rate for Chapter 13 cases filed without an attorney is significantly lower than those filed with legal representation.

The complexity of the process and the pitfalls of navigating it alone can reduce the likelihood of successfully completing your bankruptcy and getting the fresh start you need.



While DIY bankruptcy might seem like a viable option, it’s important to weigh the potential cost savings against the risks and potential negative outcomes. Filing for bankruptcy is a significant decision with far-reaching implications, and the process is a complex one. Mistakes can be costly and can result in losing more than you might have saved by not hiring an attorney.

Remember, the goal of bankruptcy isn’t just to get out of debt — it’s to do so in a way that allows you to regain control of your finances and start fresh. That often involves navigating complex legal and financial landscapes, where professional guidance can be invaluable.

An experienced bankruptcy attorney can provide the expertise and advice you need to navigate this process successfully and help you avoid pitfalls that could compromise your financial future.

If you’re considering bankruptcy, it’s recommended to at least consult with an attorney before making a decision. Many offer free consultations, which can provide you with a clearer understanding of what’s involved in the bankruptcy process and what you can expect. This decision is too important to go it alone — getting professional legal advice is a wise investment in your financial future.


stopping car reposession with bankruptcy


Hiring an Experienced Bankruptcy Lawyer

It’s important to hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney as one of the steps to take when you’re facing bankruptcy and you need solid guidance and representation.

This is because there are many different types of bankruptcy. Only an experienced lawyer will know which one would work best for your specific situation.

It might seem like it makes sense to do this yourself. But most people don’t have the time or patience to understand all of the intricate details involved in bankruptcy.

That means they make mistakes by not choosing the right type, or by not filling out paperwork correctly. Both things could lead to delays and ultimately hurt your chances of getting any debt relief at all.

This is not a journey to take lightly, but it is also not one to take alone. If you need to file for bankruptcy, reach out to us today to start your journey with us.

If you want to learn more about the options you have and the steps to take, call us for a free consultation.


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