Masschusetts Petition Preparer Guidelines

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The state of Massachusetts allows you to use a petition preparer to create a bankruptcy petition. A preparer assists you with creating and typing your petition, but does not provide you with legal advice. Although Massachusetts allows you to use a preparer, it limits the amount of money he can charge for his services and your legal remedies against him.

Massachusetts allows any person or business who is not an attorney or working for one to prepare a bankruptcy petition, thereby acting as a petition preparer. The preparer does not need to have a law degree, legal background or experience with bankruptcy courts. However, most preparers do have some sort of experience.

Duties of a Petition Preparer

A preparer helps you draft a document which complies with the initial filing requirements of bankruptcy courts. All bankruptcies are managed by federal courts. Bankruptcy petitions are all similar in format, depending on the specific type filed. A petitioner inputs your information into a (usually pre-fabricated) form to submit to your local federal court. Because of their job duties, preparers are sometimes referred to as "typing services."

Because they are a federal issue, Massachusetts does not have any state laws concerning the proceeding itself or using preparers, but instead follows federal law. Preparers are permitted by federal law to help you with your petition, but cannot charge you more than $150 for their services. Their fees are in addition to any court filing fees.

Federal law limits your legal recourse against a preparer who does not do a good job. The courts hold you responsible for the statements in your petition. If your petition is wrongly formatted or contains incorrect information it is you and not the preparer who is liable. This limits you from suing the preparer and claiming that they did not do a good job.

Advice from Petition Preparers

Preparers cannot give you legal advice. They cannot tell you which type of bankruptcy to claim, what petition to file, what assets to include or exclude, what will happen to your home during and after the bankruptcy or what debts you can discharge. They also cannot comment on your tax liability after declaring bankruptcy or the potential claims a creditor could make against you in an attempt to receive the full amount of money you owe them. This reinforces the image of preparers being a typing service.

A preparer can provide you with general non-legal information about bankruptcies. This type of information includes the general length of most proceedings and what the court normally does during them. Because it is not legal advice, you have very little recourse against a preparer who provides you with incorrect guidance.

Reasons to Hire a Preparer

Hiring a preparer means that your petition will contain the basic information required by the federal court and will be legible. A preparer's work, when completed, should be able to be immediately submitted to the court. Always research several preparers before hiring one, particularly their experience and whether any complaints have been filed against them. Your local court or Better Business Bureau should have a list of complaints against specific preparers, if any.

Seek Legal Advice

Obtain legal assistance with your bankruptcy petition. A lawyer will review the federal laws, discuss the process of a bankruptcy and, possibly, file a petition on your behalf.