You have probably seen advertisements for Bankruptcy Petition Preparers in the paper or on TV but may be unclear as to what they are, exactly. They say they will help you out with the paperwork you need to file bankruptcy and let you essentially act as your own attorney through the actual proceedings. They are cheap and that can be appealing, but you should know what you are getting yourself into by taking them up on their offer.
Petition Preparers are in fact recognized by the court as lawful organizations, but that doesn’t mean that they are going to get you what you need. As with any profession there are some good people and some bad, but I have seen too many people suffer humiliation because their claim is such a disaster that the trustees light into them at creditor meetings.
Bankruptcy is a serious process and takes much more than just filling out some standard paperwork. Along with a vast number of extra forms that need to be filed, there are classes you need to attend and declarations that need to be made, not to mention the array of guidelines and requirements that you likely won’t know if you aren’t a bankruptcy attorney. A Petition Preparer isn’t going to walk you through all of those steps (if they even know the steps themselves), and if you don’t follow the rules, your case will be automatically dismissed.
Only the most basic Chapter 7 cases should even consider using a bankruptcy petition preparer, and even then an attorney will make the process easier and get you the maximum guidance and benefits possible. However, if you do choose to use a petition preparer, get it in writing ahead of time that you will have no problems with your case if you follow their instructions.