Bankruptcy Petition Preparer – Should You Use One?

Under the bankruptcy code a person other than an attorney is allowed to prepare your bankruptcy petition documents. A bankruptcy petition preparer is considered anyone other than an attorney who helps you prepare your bankruptcy documents for money. Many people who are struggling with debt turn to bankruptcy petition prepares to file for bankruptcy because their fees are lower than bankruptcy attorneys.

Filing for bankruptcy using no attorney is a risky proposition. There is no specific legal training that is required, or certification that is needed for a bankruptcy petition preparer. Although you do not need an attorney to file for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy code is quite complex. Unfortunately since there is no legal certification or schooling required to be a petition preparer, anyone can open up shop and call themselves bankruptcy petition preparers.

If you decide that you have no option but to utilize a non-attorney then you should be aware of what a petition preparer must provide you with and what they are not allowed to do. Under the bankruptcy code a person (other than an attorney) that you have hired to prepare your bankruptcy documents for pay must:

* Provide A Required Notice – Under the bankruptcy code the non-attorney must provide you with a notice that informs you that they are not an attorney and that they cannot give you legal advice. The notice must be signed by you and the petition preparer under penalty of perjury. This notice must be filed with the court with your bankruptcy documents.
* Provide Identification – If you have paid someone to prepare your bankruptcy documents then they are required to provide identifying information on the bankruptcy documents that are filed with the court. If any person or organization refuses to provide their information and completes your documents without disclosing their information, then they are violating the law. It is required under the bankruptcy code that preparer provide their information in the bankruptcy documents filed with the court.

A bankruptcy petition preparer cannot:

* Give Legal Advice -Non-attorneys cannot give you any form of legal advice including whether you can keep assets in your bankruptcy case, file for bankruptcy, or reaffirm a debt. Giving you legal advice constitutes the unauthorized practice of law, and could result in the recovery of damages or an injunction against the person.
* Represent You at 341 Hearing – A non-attorney is not allowed to represent you in court or at the 341 Meeting of Creditors. At the 341 hearing you will be required to represent yourself and answer questions without the assistance of the petition preparer. In comparison, attorneys can represent you at the 341 meeting of creditors, and will be present to assist you in court.
* Collect Filing Fee- The required filing fee for a bankruptcy case must not be collected by the non-attorney preparer.

It is very important that if you decide to hire a bankruptcy petition preparer that you ensure that they are complying with the bankruptcy code. If they are engaging in behavior that violates the bankruptcy code then it is unlikely that they will do a good job preparing your bankruptcy documents. The best option is to seek the assistance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can help you understand the bankruptcy laws and give you legal advice.

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