Do-It-Yourself Bankruptcy

Are there any sites to guide one through this undesired process? I can’t afford the $1000.00 plus lawyer fees and make (barely) too much money to get pro-bono legal help.
This is in Washington state. I (obviously) have an on-line computer. Currently 70 years old with a part time job, own a car, rent.
Any help will be appreciated. Thanks.

If you don’t own a house, why are you filing bankruptcy? Do you have other significant assets you need to protect? What kind of debts are you seeking to discharge?

Mostly credit cards. I don’t own a house, but am afraid of losing my car and therefore my job.
No other assets.

I am not a lawyer, so you should get some legal advice before filing for bankruptcy. But credit cards are unsecured debt, and in most states they can’t take your only car, even if they win a judgement. You really should get some legal advice before filing bankruptcy.

Credit cards are unsecured debt. Which means, the people who loaned you the money to buy your car can repossess your car if you stop making car payments, but the bank can’t repossess your car if you stop making credit card payments. So pay your auto loan bill before you pay your credit card bills.

It is certainly possible that your creditors might get a judgment against you and the court will order that part of your paycheck will go to pay your creditors.

The other thing is, by your logic nobody can afford to pay a bankruptcy lawyer, because they’re all broke. Which is true. But while the lawyer might cost you $1000, not having a lawyer could potentially cost you much more than $1000. Bankruptcy lawyers are used to clients who are bankrupt, so they’ll help you figure out how to pay them, never fear.

As for whether you should seek bankruptcy, that depends on your income and your total debts. If, say, you could reserve 20% of your income to pay off your debts, how many years would it take to pay off?

I ask because my brother-in-law went through bankruptcy over $10,000 in credit card debt. He could have paid it off in 2-3 years of saving.

Anyway, the consequences of a bankruptcy for a 70 year old guy are lower. You’re not going to be in the market to buy a home ever, for instance.

But this is the sort of thing you should be discussing with your bankruptcy lawyer.

I would not try the DIY approach with bankruptcy. There are too many issues to consider, many of which have to do with the timing of expenses or income. If you are not aware of all your options or you don’t fully understand all the consequences of your actions, you may make some very expensive mistakes and never even realize it. This is especially true because bankruptcy involves an interplay between state and federal laws.

Several of my clients have used one particular bankruptcy attorney and give him high marks. Typical cost is about $1500. He’s located a little north of Seattle. I’d be happy to dig up the reference information if you PM me.

I would scour around your area to look for a reputable bankruptcy attorney who provides free consultations to tell you if bankruptcy is even in your best interest (judgment exemptions and the (presumable) fact that you’re on [edit: you receive some fixed income] a fixed income may suggest that BK is not necessary). even if the consultation is 100 or 200 dollars, it’s probably worth your while to get the consultation

i would suggest NACBA’s lawyer directory www.nacba.org

most of the attorneys who are members of NACBA have a decently public service streak in them.

A simple Chapter 7 used to be an easy thing to self-file - ten years ago, you could buy the Nolo book, type your info into the forms, take them to the court with the $250 or so filing fee, and that was that.

Now, the forms are significantly more complicated. Also, there’s a “means test” and pre- and post-filing education that you must deal with.

If you’re desparate and up to the challenge, Nolo still produces DIY bankruptcy books.

Just charge it on your credit card ;).

In all seriousness you do need a lawyer for this proceeding, it would be foolish to try and proceed without one. Scrape the money together wherever you can. IF you haven’t already, stop paying your credit card bills altogether and use the money saved from this (if you are going bankrupt there is no reason to continue to pay these). If there is any property you can ebay, do it. If you have a retirement fund, take it from there. Borrow from friends/family. If you are considering bankruptcy, you are past the point of getting to be picky of how to get this money and now need to be in total desperation/will do anything mode.

I will second the opinion to find a lawyer with free initial consultation to see if bankruptcy is right for you.

You may be able to find a lawyer for free or for a reduced fee here: http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Home.aspx (use the drop down to select “legal services” and enter your city or zip code)

or

here: http://www.lsc.gov/map/state_T32_R56.php

A former step daughter and her husband filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy on there own. They used a book printed by Nolo Press as a guide and all went well. Nolo Press is known for there do it yourself legal guides. They can be found a most big box book stores or online.

The do-it-yourself guides could be very useful in helping you decide whether you should be considering bankruptcy in the first place. But worrying about credit card debt might be unnecessary. The credit card company has very limited options in squeezing money out of you. They can call you and harass you, but unless they go to court they can’t take anything from you. And they don’t want to have to go to court, because that costs money. And they know as well as you do that people in your situation can file bankruptcy, in which case credit card debtholders are last in line.

And so one possible solution is to call up the credit card holder and tell them that you’re considering going through bankruptcy, but might decide to hold off if they can work out a payment plan that you can live with. And not to be crass, but you’re 70 years old. If you die, they also get nothing. So work in a mention of your emphysema and diabetes. Couldn’t hurt.

If you had a lawyer, the lawyer could also help advise you on ways to work out options other than bankruptcy. The $1000 you pay your lawyer could save you many times that amount.

You’re car is safe. They can’t repossess it, but they can win a judgement and put a lien on it.

That means you won’t be able to sell the car until you satisfy the judgement.

The process of filing Chapter 7 and is fairly easy. The trick is be polite and make friends with the court clerk. The biggest reason to have a lawyer in the Chapter 7 process is the fact now a lot of credit card companies actively fight it.

In the old days when you showed up, almost always credit card companies never bothered to show up to argue the debts owed. Now there is a tendency to do so. So if you’ve taken out cash advances in the last month, they used to fight, now it’s not uncommon for credit card companies to go back a year on cash advances.

The basic logic is once you’re in trouble you should stop using credit cards. So lets say you lose your job, bankruptcy judges now are more apt to say, "Well if you lost your job you should’ve stopped using the card so any charges made after that date will not be in your bankruptcy.

This is where a lawyer comes in strong. He can look at your charges and tell you what is likely to fly and what will get thrown out of your bankruptcy. If for instance, you owe $30,000 and $20,000 of it was charged in the last year, it is possible the judge would only approve $10,000 discharge. In that case what’s the point of bankruptcy? None you wind up oweing too much.

Now this isn’t always the case, some lawyers can argue to get the whole $30,000 discharged, a layman isn’t likely to know the tricks an experienced bankruptcy attorney does.

The point is if you go in by yourself and pay the filing fee and can’t get all the debt discharged then you wasted the fee.

If you have nothing they can attach it may be better to simply do nothing and live for seven years on a cash basis.

Another tip is if you have income don’t keep it in a bank. Use cash only. If you feel you must use a bank be very careful. Don’t use any bank based in Texas. Texas law makes it easy for creditors to sieze an account then YOU have to sue to get it back. This is the opposite in most states? Why is this? Most likely 'cause Texas doesn’t allow creditors to attach wages at all.

Don’t keep any money in a bank in your area. Often times if the debt is large enough the creditors once they get a judgement file an attachment with every bank in a ten mile radius of your house, hoping to get lucky and you’ll have an account with one of them

Bottom line is you can’t get blood out of a turnip. Creditors will lie and tell stories do thing into scaring you to pay. You can’t be put in jail and they can’t take what you don’t have so don’t worry about it.

If you think you can pay something now is the time to act. Call your creditors and tell them you are on the verge of Chapter 7. Offer them 10¢ on the dollar to clear the debt. They won’t go for it right away, but after a few months of no payments they’ll get idea.

Actually, not quite. Only the first $2500 of equity in a vehicle is exempt from execution.

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=6.15.010

All non-exempt property of the debtor is subject to execution: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=6.17.090

When the sheriff gets a writ of execution, he seizes it, and sets a sale date: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=6.17.130

Washington has a provision that grants a judgment creditor a lien real property to the extent the debtor has equity that exceeds the homestead exemption. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=6.13.090

I’ve seen no similar provision regarding personal property. While they can’t repossess it (as in show up and take it without a court order), they can get a court order and force a sale.

It’s probably unlikely that the creditor would execute against a vehicle unless the debtor’s equity was substantial.

I encourage the OP to at least discuss the matter with a licensed attorney, either by checking out one of the links I posted upthread or this one How to Find Legal Help from the Washington State Bar Association website.

If you’re doing online research, here’s one resource:

http://www.bankruptcylawnetwork.com/ is a blog written by bankruptcy attorneys. There doesn’t look like a lot of Washington state specific info there.

I’ll echo the advice to speak to an attorney – but then, I’m biased – I’m a bankruptcy attorney. Not in Washington, though, so you can’t hire me.

But at least in California, many bankruptcy attorneys will give a free initial consultation.

Good luck!