This is the era of Do-It-Yourselfers. Spend a few hours on Google, download the official bankruptcy forms, and you can file your own bankruptcy or Chapter 13! What could possibly go wrong?
Tomorrow, December 1, 2015 NEW bankruptcy forms are required in all bankruptcy cases. The changes are SO huge and sweeping that two of the six bankruptcy software companies have given up and closed shop.
The form changes have been in the works since 2008. The forms have been made “reader-friendly” and have been “modern-ized”. The forms have been stripped of “legal-ese”. The forms have also been expanded in size. These two factors alone are bad for the do-it yourself bankruptcy filer.
These changes disguise a minefield to look like a ballrooom. Dance in the rwrong place and you could lose a leg- or worse! The easy wording makes the forms seem friendly and free of any risk. The sheer size of the petition invites errors, omissions and could leave some unwitting well-meaning people facing criminal charges.
“The consequences are really severe…people can lose their homes,” said John Rao of the National Consumer Law Center who worked on the forms modernization project. “It’s not my goal to make business for attorneys–I just think it’s a process that’s difficult to do without one.”
The problem is that bankruptcy law is deep and complicated. It touches the most important parts of our lives. The law is not about filling in forms. One must understand the rules, statutes, and the case law that applies to the specific facts of your specific case. Often huge legal decisions turn on the smallest of facts.