If you do not want to hire a lawyer for bankruptcy, but feel overwhelmed by the number of documents required during this process, you can hire a petition preparer. This person specializes in preparing bankruptcy documents for a fee. A petition preparer is much cheaper than a lawyer, but also does a lot less work; you will only get help preparing documents, not legal advice. In general, if you do not have access to a computer or typewriter, it may be worth it to pay a petition preparer to get the necessary forms ready.
Know the Limits of This Service
The most important thing to know is that a petition preparer cannot offer legal advice. Unlike a lawyer, he cannot advise you whether to declare bankruptcy or which chapter to use. Petition preparers also cannot offer tell you which of your debts are dischargeable, or provide information on your state's exemptions. This means you are left to do the research on your own unless you hire a lawyer.
Know What a Petition Preparer Can Offer
While there is no particular education or training required of petition preparers, they have to follow regulations set forth by the bankruptcy court. For example, they have to have you sign a contract that outlines both their costs and their services. They also cannot request the court fees from you, nor can they charge fees of more than a couple hundred dollars. In general, they cannot pass themselves off as someone who can offer legal advice, as their sole purpose is to prepare the necessary documents for bankruptcy. The best petition preparers use bankruptcy software that can create the documents quickly, allowing them to charge reasonable prices for this service. Otherwise, it would be wise to simply hire an attorney, as the whole point of hiring a petition preparer is to get some help without spending a lot of money.
Consider Which Person to Hire
If you want to avoid getting involved with a scam, in which you pay more than you should to get very little help, you should learn what to expect from the average petition preparer. Learning what petition preparers are allowed to do can also prevent you from getting bad advice from someone who is not supposed to be offering any legal help. If you are not sure whether it is worth it to hire a petition preparer, you should find out more about both their job and bankruptcy law in general.
Talk to a Lawyer
You should then attend a free initial consultation with a lawyer so you can compare the amount of help you would get from each.