Considering bankruptcy? Four reasons to work with an attorney

Working with a bankruptcy lawyer can help a person assess all options, weigh the consequences of each one, avoid legal errors and handle creditor issues.

In 2015, over 25,000 people throughout New Jersey sought relief from debt by filing bankruptcy, according to data from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of New Jersey. Given the financial strain that people in this position face, many may consider handling the process alone to minimize their legal costs. In light of the following issues, however, seeking legal help is typically essential for people who are thinking about filing bankruptcy.

1. Evaluating all options

Bankruptcy may not be the only choice available to people who are struggling with debt. For example, debt negotiation or consolidation may be an option for consumers who only have outstanding liabilities with one creditor. An attorney who possesses experience in debt consolidation as well as bankruptcy can help a person evaluate which choice offers the better fit.

2 . Understanding the impacts

Many people may go into the bankruptcy process with misconceptions about its potential benefits, drawbacks and long-term impacts. A lawyer can help a person realistically answer the following questions:

· Which debts are dischargeable? This is determined by the chapter of bankruptcy chosen as well as the nature of the debt. For example, student loan debt is typically not dischargeable in Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, unless it causes "undue hardship."

· Will the filing result in property loss? Consumers who file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is a liquidation bankruptcy, may lose their non-exempt property. An attorney can help a person evaluate the available exemptions and likely effects of filing.

· Which chapter of bankruptcy is most advantageous? This might depend on many factors, including the person's assets, income and the nature of the debt.

In short, an attorney can help ensure that a consumer does not make any decisions regarding bankruptcy based on false expectations or misunderstandings.

3. Dealing with creditors

Filing bankruptcy creates an automatic stay, which stops all wage garnishment, contact from creditors and other debt collection activities. However, some creditors might continue with these actions because they are unaware of a bankruptcy filing, while others may deliberately violate the automatic stay. By working with an attorney, consumers can ensure that their rights are not violated.

4. Avoiding legal missteps

The bankruptcy filing process is very technical, and officials of the bankruptcy court are not allowed to dispense any legal advice. As a result, people who file on their own may be at risk for making mistakes that lead to delays or even case dismissal. An attorney can help ensure that missed deadlines, errors with paperwork and other oversights do not occur and negatively affect a person's case.

Considering the potential challenges of filing independently, most people who are giving thought to filing bankruptcy should consult with an attorney beforehand. This can help a person ensure that no options are overlooked and that no avoidable mistakes are made during the filling process.