Filing Bankruptcy Without An Attorney in Arizona
Filing bankruptcy without an attorney is not always recommended, however, it sometimes is the only option for an individual. This blogpost will discuss the resources that Arizona provides for those filing on their own.
The District of Arizona Bankruptcy Court provides a short, helpful video on the implications of filing without an attorney. The video can be found here.
First and foremost, bankruptcy is complicated. Filing bankruptcy can be a smooth process when you do it right, but if you don’t, it can be a headache and nightmare. Two things are crucial for filing bankruptcy correctly. First is ensuring that you are aware of timelines for filing. Second, always fill out any bankruptcy forms as honestly and accurately as possible.
While these two things may seem easy, both can be hard to do without the assistance of an attorney. Timelines are incredibly important. The local rules for bankruptcy proceedings can be found here. If you do not follow the correct procedures for timelines, your case may be thrown out before anything can happen.
Bankruptcy proceedings will require you to honestly and accurately provide a list of assets. This is crucial for the bankruptcy court to understand what they are working with and to ensure certain assets that you want to keep are held on and others are sold and the proceeds transferred to the creditors to satisfy debts.
First is the pre-filing process. You would need to fill out the required documents and compete credit counseling. You will then file your case and a case number will be assigned. Generally after 3-5 days, the bankruptcy court will mail notice to you and all of the creditors.
A bankruptcy trustee will be assigned to your case. The bankruptcy trustee is the main contact person who will know the most about the facts of your case. They will mail you a questionnaire that needs to be fill out and request documents that need to be brought to the hearing. Generally around 30-40 days after the questionnaire is turned in, a “Section 341” meeting is held before the bankruptcy trustee. This meeting is a meeting of all creditors and other debt holders. This is to discuss the plan that will be set forth by you and the bankruptcy trustee. It is common for some creditors to not show up.
You will then be required to take a money management class. The court will then issue a discharge report, where it will set up the plan for distribution of assets. If all goes correct, the case will then close.
Arizona Self-Help Centers
Arizona provides walk-in Self Help Centers for those wishing to get assistance on the bankruptcy process. There are locations in Phoenix and Tucson. In both of these areas, the State Bar of Arizona provides volunteer attorneys to consult with individuals for 20-30 minutes without charge. Volunteer attorneys are also available by telephone. These consultations are appointment only and the Court’s scheduling application can be found here. Note that these volunteer attorneys only consult on Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 cases and to individual creditors in a bankruptcy case. They do not consult on Chapter 11 cases.
To consult with an attorney, you must first watch the bankruptcy education program videos and complete an online questionnaire. This will require about one hour of time. The questionnaire allows the attorney to get a sense of your case before hand and to provide specific information at your meeting.
Filing bankruptcy without an attorney can be difficult but it is doable. Arizona provides great resources for those who choose this path.
Click here for Chapter 13 bankruptcy information in Arizona.