South Carolina Petition Preparer Guidelines

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In South Carolina, a petition preparer is any person who helps you draft a bankruptcy petition. They charge fees for their services. They are not attorneys. South Carolina follows federal laws about petitioners, meaning that they allow you to use them, but limit your remedies if they don't do a good job.

South Carolina allows any corporation or individual to act as a preparer. The state does not require that he have a legal degree or background or experience working with federal bankruptcy courts. However, the majority of preparers have this type of experience with bankruptcies.

Duties of a Petition Preparer

A preparer completes the documents required for you to file for bankruptcy. All bankruptcies are handled in federal court, which has local branches in each state. The federal court has specific rules for the different types of bankruptcies it allows, which are established in the Bankruptcy Code. A preparer inputs your information into a form that conforms to court guidelines. Preparers are often referred to as "typing services."

Because bankruptcies are a federal issue, South Carolina does not have any specific laws regarding them. Instead, they follow federal laws. Federal law permits the use of preparers, but limits them to charging a maximum of $150 for their work. This amount is separate from any filing fees the court may charge for you to submit your petition.

Federal law does not hold a preparer responsible for any incorrect information or other problems with a petition. You are responsible for all information on your petition, regardless of who types it. This means that you may not have any legal course of action against a preparer who does a bad job.

Prohibitions against Advice

Preparers are legally prohibited from offering you any legal advice. They cannot answer questions about the type of petition you should file, what you should include, what may happen to your home or other assets during or after the bankruptcy, what debts you may discharge and which may remain intact, or what assets to include in your petition. They cannot provide information about how a bankruptcy will affect your taxes or what a creditor can claim against you to receive payment.

However, a preparer can provide you with general, non-legal advice about the average length of bankruptcy proceedings and court procedures. This is because this information is an opinion rather than guidance. Because it is advice, though, you have no legal recourse if he is wrong.

Reasons to Hire a Preparer

A preparer assists you with creating a bankruptcy petition that contains all necessary information and is readable. They are essentially administrative assistants for the task. If they do their job well, you are able to file your petition with the court with no problems. Always research preparers before hiring one, including how much experience they have and whether any complaints have been made against them. The Better Business Bureau and federal court should have a list of preparers against whom complaints have been filed.

Seek Legal Advice

Obtain legal assistance with your bankruptcy petition. A lawyer will review the federal laws and assist in drafting and submitting your petition.