As a general rule of thumb, Chapter 7 cases may be available for as little as $450 in attorney fees. Chapter 13 cases are generally more expensive, with attorneys starting at $750 for representation through completion of the plan. These amounts represent attorney fees only and debtors are usually responsible for paying filing fees and extraordinary expense items. Further, many items of additional expense increase attorney fees rather quickly.
As an alternative to legal representation, a few debtors choose to hire form preparation services and muddle through hearings alone. Also, software programs are available and cost about the same as form preparation services. As a last resort, a few debtors download forms and complete them with assistance, file with review or help of any kind.
Preparation is the key aspect of success under both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Financial records must be in order. Tax returns must be filed and current. Forms must be prepared in strict compliance with Federal and Local rules. Moreover, each debtor has a wide assortment of options available which may enhance, diminish, or prevent relief granted by the court. By way of example, be certain that hiding assets, fraudulent conveyances of assets, and preferential transfers are subject to scrutiny and potentially may result in criminal liability.
Nevertheless, the Code and applicable rules do allow extensive planning before filing a petition for relief, which includes paying regular expenses, certain debts, and do not require equal payments to all creditors. With the assistance of a talented local attorney, few individual debtors in Chapter 7 are required to surrender assets for liquidation. Again, preparation and careful consideration are the key to success. The technical chore of legal compliance pays handsome dividends for most debtors, and yet may be beyond the capability of debtors filing pro se.