I would suggest that you hire a Round Lake bankruptcy lawyer as opposed to doing it yourself. If you search, you will see many companies online offering to sell you bankruptcy forms for $199.00. You’ll see companies that say they will do all the work for you. It could be a paralegal, or it could just be an online service. Caution: do not utilize those services. Do not utilize a bankruptcy preparation company in lieu of a real, certified Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney. You run the risk of several things: first, you might be successful in filing your case; however, you do not know how to properly protect your property in a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Your case may wind up being dismissed if you don’t follow timely requirements, or you might lose property that you have not properly protected through state law. In Illinois, for example, the State of Illinois exemptions apply to personal property. The bankruptcy preparation companies or online companies that say they will prepare your case cannot give you legal advice. In other words, you have to tell them what statute to apply over what property. This is probably the biggest problem with filing a bankruptcy case yourself, is that you do not know how to utilize the Illinois bankruptcy law or the state law in which you live to properly exempt property listed on your bankruptcy petition. Further, you might neglect to list property that you didn’t believe you had to list, such as a paid-off vehicle. I have countless clients who do not tell me about vehicles because they don’t have a debt on it anymore. Just because a vehicle is paid in full does not mean it doesn’t get listed as an asset on the bankruptcy schedules. So those are the two big nightmares that a pro se debtor can experience, either losing property or having the case dismissed.
I strongly recommend you speak with several attorneys before you make a decision on which local bankruptcy lawyer you want to hire. Get a feel for that attorney’s style. Get a feel for the attorney’s office and the attorney’s staff. Has the attorney written extensively on the subject? Will the attorney provide any references that you can speak with? Does the attorney’s office look like an office that’s filing bankruptcy cases, or does it look like a general practitioner’s office in which any case will be accepted for a fee? Bankruptcy is specialized today. Bankruptcy is difficult today. Every state, every jurisdiction has local rules which take time and energy and effort to understand. It is only after many years that an attorney handling bankruptcy cases will actually begin to feel really comfortable with the practice. That’s the attorney that you want to see; that’s the attorney that you want to hire. You want to hire the attorney that is filing bankruptcy cases every day and has a staff of helpful assistants who are aware of the bankruptcy laws as well. You also probably want an attorney who’s a member of the American Bankruptcy Institute or some other sort of bar association that deals with bankruptcy. You basically want to go to a specialist; you want to go to someone who is an expert in bankruptcy law; you want to hire someone who has made bankruptcy his or her life’s work. That will ensure that you have the best chance of success in your case. That doesn’t guarantee results, but it would sure be helpful if you go to an experienced bankruptcy attorney to get the results that you’re hoping for. You’ve got a better chance if you go that route. Whatever you do, avoid the temptation to hire cheap bankruptcy lawyers. You often get what you paid for.