If you own a house in New York City and you’re filing for Bankruptcy without a lawyer, you’re insane.

I just came back from a Bankruptcy trustee meeting in Brooklyn, New York.  One of the individuals filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in New York was a middle aged man that owned two properties, one of which was his primary residence.  Fine.  Both residences had some equity in them.  Fine (kind of).   The individual filing this case was doing this without the assistance of a Bankruptcy lawyer and decided to go at it alone.  A screaming match ensued between the Chapter 7 Trustee and the individual within about 2 minutes of the meeting beginning because many of the documents filed were erroneous.  Not Fine.  Listen, if you own a Mercedes, and the light goes in in the dashboard displaying an engine problem, and you start repairing the car with your own hands (and you’re not a mechanic), the majority of the population would not think you’re the smartest person in the world.  Thats because when we spend a large sum of money on an item, be it a house, a car, a boat (dumb idea, I can’t get rid of this boat!) we want to protect that asset.  The same goes with filing for Bankruptcy in Brooklyn, or Queens, or anywhere else in New York and not hiring a competent Chapter 7 Bankruptcy lawyer.  I get the lawyer jokes you’ll make, I do.  I know you’ll think this is self serving and another way for lawyers just to say that no one can do certain things so that lawyers make more money.  Thats fine.  And to a certain extent, you’re right.  For instance if you have no assets and no income, you may find a pro bono association near you that would file your case for free.  But don’t confuse that with an individual who does not want to spend a small sum of money to ensure he can keep his house.  Because right now, we’re unsure whether or not this individual could in fact keep his house.  Lawyers know exemptions limits in Bankruptcy.  We know the documents that we need to bring to the Trustee meeting to ensure your meeting doesnt turn into a rematch of Ali-Holyfield.  There is a value to this.  You’re getting rid of hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt and keeping property you’re legally allowed to keep for a very very reasonable price.

So I say again that if you’re planning on filing for Bankruptcy, do not go at it alone.  Its dumb.  It doesn’t work in a large percentage of cases I see.  And don’t go to one of those $399 preparation services.  It’s like bringing your taxes to your uncle who taught Math and saying (Do my taxes!).  He doesn’t know how to do your taxes.  They don’t know how to file for Bankruptcy in New York properly.  Finally, Does anyone want to buy a boat?

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