How to File for Bankruptcy Yourself?

Last Revised on February 15, 2011

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A difficult financial situation can take a toll on anybody very easily. But what if you reach a point where you are in so much of debt that only way to recover is to file for bankruptcy? There is nothing to be ashamed about nor should the process of filing bankruptcy be hard; with the right information on your side, you can file bankruptcy yourself in no time with simple easy steps.

File bankruptcy without a lawyer, myself for free. Step by step guide:

Only individuals can file bankruptcy without an attorney, corporations and partnerships can’t. But still you should know that it can be hard to complete the bankruptcy without attorney or pro se, because many rules involved are technical and any missteps can prolong or delay the completion. On the other hand, all the information on bankruptcy process is readily available online; you will be saving at least $1,500 on attorney fees. Therefore, please follow the steps very carefully.

Bankruptcy Forms and Packet. This step is probably one of the most worried about step by many who are filing bankruptcy themselves without using a lawyer. The truth of the matter is that the getting the bankruptcy forms are one of the easiest step of the entire process. You can even download it for free available from or at your local court offices. Filling out on your own might be hard however, since you don’t have any experience with it before. They won’t answer any legal questions, but you can surely ask them to confirm you got all the forms necessary. You can even call them and ask what forms you need to fill out. Most likely you will be filling out chapter 7 bankruptcy forms, chapter 13 is far more complicated to an extent where without hiring a bankruptcy attorney most people aren’t able to complete it successfully without making errors. These are the prime documents that you need to complete.

Do things in order. Whether it is the bankruptcy forms or any other requirements such as tax returns, date of last bills and amount owed to debts, do them in the order they are requested to prevent delays. Bankruptcy forms have certain order that the courts want them to be submitted in, and the forms that aren’t applicable to you, just put not applicable instead of removing it entirely. Some of the most commonly forgotten items by the people who are filing bankruptcy are retirement funds, trust funds, lawsuits filed against you, interest earned on bank accounts or probate estate. Document them all and list the amount of money you make or spend on each of them in as much detail as you can. Make sure to keep copies of them all.

Means Test. As complicated as it sounds, this is not really a test that you have to take. It is known as debt to income eligibility. It helps determine whether you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which is what most people file. This test is to determine whether you have the means to pay back your debt or not. Here is how it works: First you have to calculate your income and compare it with the median income of people living in your state. If your income is equal to or less than the median income in your state, you can file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and don’t need to worry about means test. However, if the amount of money your are making is greater, then you have to pass the means test in which your disposable income is subtracted; if it is less than $100, you pass the test. If it is more than $100 but less than $166.66, you will need to pay a part of your debt. If it is more than $166.66 you can not file chapter 7. You can also search online for Means Test Calculator, which measure it for you.

Get your Credit Report. Yes to file a bankruptcy, it is important that you get your credit report from all three reporting bureaus of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You don’t need a lawyer for that. If you aren’t able to get from any agencies, you can order a copy of your credit report for free once each year from Annual Credit Report. The reason why you need it so that you can make sure you don’t miss adding information about any creditors you owe money to. Then collect information about additional lenders. The first step to gather information about what documents your state law requires to file a bankruptcy because it varies from state to state. Generally, besides forms, they include records about the the list of current creditors, statements and letters from collection agencies, and any other outstanding balances that needs to be paid.

Credit Counseling. Yes this is a requirement in many states if you plan to file a bankruptcy.  Go to your county court office or for the nearest approved credit counseling provider in locations near your area. Some of them may charge you about $30 per counseling session, which usually last between 2 to 3 hours. Some of these financial literacy and credit management courses can be done online. If you have to go to classroom, it is usually a good idea to bring your spouse or relative who is involved in the bankruptcy process with you. At the end of the program, you will receive a certificate stating you completed the counseling. Keep the certificate and information about any budgeting help services they provide to you along with the form called Exhibit D or form 23, which is also known as Individual Debtor’s Statement of Compliance with Credit Counseling Requirement. Remember this will be part of your bankruptcy paperwork before judge can sign it.

Revise before submitting any thing. It is best to your advantage to take your time to review what you have prepared before submitting in hurry. You have spend a lot of time and energy on it already, now take a deep breath and slowly revise them all. Make sure there are no errors, inaccurate information, and inaccuracies. This is one of the biggest disadvantage of filing for bankruptcy on your own, without lawyer since they have years of experience and can easily track mistakes and fix them. If you have any doubt, seek help. Even putting the wrong address can make things go wrong. Make sure your own address, lenders address and the address to which you are sending the completed bankruptcy package is right.

Seek fee waivers if short of money. The reason you are filing for bankruptcy is because you are in a bad financial situation, so it is very likely you may not have enough money to pay the bankruptcy filing fees to the court. The government offers you two choices in such cases: fee waiver and fee installments. If you are seeking fees to be waived, read the guidelines fist. Or you can also request for the fees to be paid in installments. Often times both of these are already included somewhere at the end of the package. Don’t use the credit cards to pay any of the expenses if you may not be able to discharge the debt if the creditors challenge  through a lawsuit or some adversary proceeding, in your bankruptcy case even if you didn’t mean to do it through any evil intention.

Sign them all. Sign all the bankruptcy papers where they ask you to. If you used one of the petition preparers; they must sign all documents they help you prepare. Make sure you or the preparer print their name, address and social security number on such documents. They cannot sign a document on the debtor’s behalf nor can they receive payment from the debtor for court fees. This would help avoid some hefty fees lawyers usually charge.

Submit, wait and reply. Once you are sure you did the best you can to make sure every information is correct and completed, submit them right away. Then wait for the period of time usually it takes the court to process the bankruptcy paperwork. Once you get the correspondence requesting for additional forms to be filled out or information to provide, send them right away. Follow all the orders; at the end you will be ordered to meet with creditors about the plans made by the court. If you don’t follow any of them, your case will be dismissed and result in bankruptcy being denied.

Debts discharged. Finally wait for the certificate to be sent to you that says all your debts are discharged. After that, follow what you learned from your debt management and credit counseling course to live a good financially stable life. Remeber though if you file chapter 13 and included your car or some assets on the paper, you maybe able to keep it; the trick is if you reaffirmed it, you get to keep it but will have to make payments as if you never filed for bankruptcy to start with. That’s the down side; the advantage is that you protected your car from getting seized by repo man or somthing.

Other options: if the above steps didn’t work for you, and you still can’t afford to or don’t want to hire a bankruptcy lawyer try using a paralegal. They are also known as petition preparer, they can’t give you any legal advice but they can help you file the forms and other steps involved. They are much cheaper alternative than the lawyers; the fees they charge are less than $300.

As always, please feel free to leave suggestions, ask any questions for help or simply discuss the topic. We highly appreciate your involvement and input everyday. If find it helpful, please share it with your friends by using one of the buttons below.

14 Responses to “How to File for Bankruptcy Yourself?”

  1. Need advice about BK Says:
    December 11th, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I didn’t know you can file bankruptcy without a lawyer. You described what is involved in the process of process of filing for bankruptcy very well. But I am looking for who qualifies which one and what steps to take for chapter 7 and 13, I am still undecided which one I qualify for.

  2. File Bankruptcy Yourself Says:
    December 14th, 2010 at 1:24 am

    I think besides deciding to file a bankruptcy to straighten up my financial situation, doing it myself was one of the best decision I made during that tough time. A lot of people who are asking how to go about filing bankruptcy yourself on your own, get all the correct information first. My friend said it will become so easier for you once you know what to do and where to get the papers; save money on bankruptcy attorneys if you can.

  3. How can I file for bankruptcy if I am almost completely broke? Says:
    December 14th, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I need bankruptcy advice, but how do I get information on bankruptcy from a lawyer if I don’t have any money to pay for their services? The reason I need them is because I am not good at doing things myself, especially the legal stuff that takes long and you need to fill out without any mistakes. Are there lawyers that give free bankruptcy consultations? I have all the free court forms some of which I downloaded online. I wish I could do on my own.

  4. Emily Neoneir Says:
    December 15th, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    When you file for bankruptcy yourself without a lawyer help, you have to remember certain things. The schedules of debtor’s assets and liabilities must be filed with the court within first 15 days of filing for bankruptcy protection. If you don’t do it appropriately, you can not file for 180 days or your case will be dismissed. I learned my lesson this way.

  5. Kenny Jackson Says:
    December 23rd, 2010 at 11:30 am

    How long do I have to wait after filing bankruptcy to apply for a new credit? My plan to is to rebuild credit but I am confused about how long after bankruptcy case is discharged will your application be approved.

  6. is filing bankruptcy yourself without a lawyer good decision? Says:
    December 24th, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Yes, you can file bankruptcy yourself without lawyer but you have to realize it may not be a good idea. Everybody is skilled differently, and if you are the kind of person who is not so good at filling out all the paperwork completely and properly and not missing out any parts, then your bankruptcy maybe delayed or, even worse, denied. For those who can’t afford to pay for attorney services, I recommend doing free, no-obligation consultation with bankruptcy lawyers; many of them do offer such services over the phone without having to visit their office. Although some do charge small amount of fees for their time, at the end it’s the money well spent.

    I would like to warn those who are planning to file bankruptcy or already filed on that you can receive a chapter 7 bankruptcy discharge only once every eight years, that means you have to be careful with your finance so not to rake up too many debt after bankruptcy discharge. The chapter 13 bankruptcy can be filed at any time however.

  7. filing bankruptcy yourself is easy - only thing is time spend on documents filling Says:
    December 28th, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Here is a short version of a long story: yesterday I had a conversation with my husband about how to go about filing a bankruptcy without lawyer. He laughed at me and brushed off right there. I explained to him the process, but I got stuck when he asked me whether I know about all the prime documents and paperwork forms that are required. So yes my question to you is: what are the list of documents that needs to be filled if you are filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy yourself. We heard that some of them can be filled within few waits while others have some stipulations and depends on what is already submitted, etc.

  8. Jay Nutzman Says:
    February 9th, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing the way by which i can file my bankruptcy on my own. Thia step by step explanation about doing it yourself is a good piece of guide for me and other. it also helps in knowing about the facts ans Pros and cons related to Bankruptcy.

  9. bankruptcy due to student loans? Says:
    February 15th, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Hey, please help. I am thinking about filing bankruptcy protection from private student loans. Can you file one for that? I have accumulated over tens of thousands of dollars over the past 6 years and still hasn’t graduated from the college yet. I am afraid the career I chose might not offer me job yet easily either. Just in case I remain unemployed over several years or lets say I am not able to afford to pay my student loans, how do i file for bankruptcy? thanks in advance.

  10. Bankruptcy on Student loans Says:
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:52 am

    One thing I have read after going over all if this chapter 7 bankruptcy stuff on all these websites is you can’t file bankruptcy on student loans, child support, or taxes. Those are the 3 things they say are on the list. 🙁 sorry. Student loans stink they can rack up! I would suggest finding a career, with college credits you can get a good paying job somewhere.

  11. Bankruptcy due to student loans says Says:
    July 28th, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Let me clarify that you can file on private student loans, but you can’t file on student loans that are disbursed by the Federal Government.

  12. chulupa Says:
    October 6th, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    i am trying to do it my self to me it sound complecate.i think will hire me lawer.

  13. snookies Says:
    June 23rd, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    My question is this- what if you put the wrong amount down for debt owed? I recently filed my papers and just got another statement from a creditor only to find the balance was actually about $400 higher on one of my debts. Will the amount be discharged in full?

  14. chapter 7 Says:
    July 23rd, 2012 at 7:31 am

    I may have to file ch.7 what are the time lines, I have a sheriff’s sale date for Aug. 8, 2012 we’re trying to have that stopped, also I have a wheel chair accessible van, will I be able to keep this, the only transportation for my daughter to get to clinics or hospitals, & church, Thanks

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