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Use of non-attorney bankruptcy preparer may impede debt relief

A recent trend in legal matters has been the growth of the do-it-yourself industry and non-lawyers helping people prepare legal forms and documents. In some very simple legal matters, this may be sufficient. But some areas of law require more expertise and experience. Debt relief through bankruptcy is considered by some in New Jersey as one of those areas.

In fact, a man who was preparing Chapter 7 bankruptcy paperwork for others was recently sent to prison for continuing to prepare bankruptcy documents after being warned to stop by the bankruptcy court. While non-lawyers are allowed to perform some functions in bankruptcy court, those functions are limited due to the complexity of the bankruptcy system.

Debtors who had the man prepare their paperwork said that they paid him in cash.  Several of them said that they didn’t understand parts of the documents they signed. They also said that the man instructed them to tell the court that they prepared the documents themselves.

As with other legal matters, the best course of action before filing for bankruptcy is to contact a reputable attorney who is experienced in that area of law. Any bankruptcy proceeding is subject to laws that are complex and change frequently. Matters that are crucial to your family such as filing the appropriate documents to prevent foreclosure on your home should be handled by an experienced professional.  A misstep during the process can have negative consequences on the ultimate outcome of the debt relief. If you find yourself considering filing for bankruptcy, it may be in your best interest to seek the professional legal advice you need.

Source: Detroit News, “Bankruptcy petition preparer gets sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison,” Christine Ferretti, Feb. 25, 2014

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