Washington Petition Preparer Guidelines

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If you are looking for a little help with bankruptcy in Washington, but are prepared to do most of the work on your own, a petition preparer may be appealing. This person types up the documents you need, but cannot dispense legal advice. The fee is typically much lower than a lawyer's, as most petition preparers do not cost more than $150 since it is against bankruptcy law to charge more. However, this cost does not include the fee charged by the clerk of the Washington bankruptcy court. Before you hire a petition preparer, find out their limits according to the bankruptcy laws, as well as what to do if you think the laws have been broken.

What the Petition Preparer Cannot Do

There is a major difference between a petition preparer and a lawyer, as there are no training requirements for the preparer. This means there is a possibility that you know more about the law than they do, so they are not qualified to offer legal advice. Petition preparers cannot instruct you to file a petition, and they cannot tell you which chapter to file once you have decided to declare bankruptcy. They also cannot tell you what to say on the bankruptcy forms, which exemptions you are eligible for, or which of your debts can be discharged. If you have many assets, you may be wondering how bankruptcy affects these. You are encouraged to either do your own research or hire a lawyer in Washington, as your petition preparer cannot tell you how to keep your home, reaffirm a debt or avoid liens. Additionally, they are not allowed to tell you how to redeem property in Washington. Finally, petition preparers are barred from telling you how to appeal an objection to discharge certain debts, or deal with tax consequences after bankruptcy. If you have questions about these issues, you are better off researching the information on your own or talking to a lawyer.

Consequences of Breaking the Rules

If the petition preparer you are working with breaks the rules, you should not pay and should seek services elsewhere. You should not have to pay until all the documents are prepared anyway, at which point you should be aware of whether all the regulations have been followed. In addition to finding a new petition preparer, you should let the United States Trustee Program know about the breach of the bankruptcy regulations.

Consider Whether to Hire a Washington Lawyer

You may find it is worth it to hire a lawyer unless you are well-informed about bankruptcy laws. Attend an initial consultation with an attorney before deciding whether to hire legal help, use a petition preparer, or just do all the work on your own.