Bankruptcy self-filing
March 2, 2011 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy in Washington State. Need advice and resources on self-filing.

I'm currently unemployed and have over 20,000 in defaulted CC debt. I have no other assets besides my vehicle, which I have been on time for throughout the loan. I believe I'm eligible for Chapter 7. I'd like to get an attorney, but they're very expensive and as you might imagine money is tight right now.

Is filing yourself a reasonable thing to do?

I have a list of all creditors, account numbers, and addresses. All I have is a car loan which I've never been late on, no other assets.

Also, I understand people have strong views on the issue, but if you could please hold your comments about it for another time I would appreciate it. This is not an easy thing to go through.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry you're dealing with this. Have you looked into legal aid? You may be able to get an attorney working pro bono to take your case, so you'll have the best of both worlds -- legal representation and no cost to you. If you can get a mod to update with a more specific location (major metropolitan area) I'll see if I can point you to some specific resources.
posted by katemonster at 11:20 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Look into an attorney. They are paid for out of the settlement, generally. Just call, it can't hurt.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:23 AM on March 2, 2011

Contact an attorney. Clearly money is tight, but what a lot of them will advise you to is just stop paying the bills on which you plan to default and use that money to pay their fee. It's usually a flat couple of hundred bucks.

Filing yourself isn't going to be easy because it looks like you're trying to default on some obligations but not others, i.e. you want the credit cards to go away but you want to keep your car. The possibility of screwing that up is real, which is why hiring a lawyer is a good idea.
posted by valkyryn at 11:27 AM on March 2, 2011

Here are some basics to get you started on understanding, and from that site you can also find the bankruptcy court in your area - contact the clerk's office and ask if they have any materials for pro se debtors, some of them will give you some information, or they may just point you here.

Is there a law library near you (a law school, a courthouse with public access to a law library) where you can go and find some resources.

You can also call your state or local bar association and ask if they have some resources for you or any pro bono programs.
posted by mrs. taters at 12:03 PM on March 2, 2011

Have you visited the bankruptcy court? In my jurisdiction there is a dedicated clerk who is there to assist people who are pro se (self-represented). The pro se clerks cannot give legal advice, but they can help you with procedural questions. They may also have a list of resources for free legal assistance in your area. Good luck.
posted by messica at 12:54 PM on March 2, 2011

I did this a few years ago.

I used this book. You can do this, it's truly not all that hard to do. It's some paperwork and a lot of waiting.

As far as keeping your vehicle, this is a process called re-affirming your loan, and most loaning companies are more than willing to allow it. You have to get the approval of the bankruptcy judge in order to re-affirm, but as long as your finances are in line, keeping your car is more than possible.

If your car is nearly paid off, it's pretty simple. If you've still got three or four years, you might consider an attorney's advice to see whether you can knock some of the loan's value down -- a lot of folks are underwater on their cars, and sometimes the underwater portion can be reduced or completely removed.

As long as you pay attention to detail and remain scrupulously honest, bankruptcy isn't that hard.
posted by dwbrant at 1:00 PM on March 2, 2011

Bankruptcy is generally easiest and simplest when there are not a lot of assets in the case to be fought for/over by creditors. Since you don't have much by way of assets, this bodes well for your plans to file pro per. However, since you do want to protect the car, I would be super careful in making sure I had done my research and dotted my i's and crossed my t's when re-affirming the car loan. This, again, will be easier if the resale value of the car is low.

Finally, regarding your concern about peoples' "comments about it," I would advise you to tell anyone giving you shit about filing a bankruptcy to fuck right off. The right to bankruptcy was included in the Constitution by some of the country's founders as a mean for recycling human capital and ensuring that getting in to debt is not a life sentence. You are not shirking any responsibility by considering filing; you're just exercising one of your legal rights, and no one has any grounds to make you feel the least bit bad about it.
posted by Aizkolari at 4:40 AM on March 3, 2011

See an attorney. They can stop creditors from attempting to collect by filing a motion. This will give you a bit of breathing room. Once your case is adjudicated the attorney's fee is added to amount you owe the court.

In my case I had to pay $150/month for five years. The attorney's fee was $1500 which was paid by my first 10 months of payments. I didn't have to pay anything up front to the lawyer.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 8:30 AM on March 4, 2011

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