Petition preparers are essentially individuals with no affiliation to bankruptcy lawyers who are in the business of preparing bankruptcy petition documents for clients.
Benefits of a Petition Preparer
Obtaining the services of a petition preparer gives you the chance to focus on other concerns pertaining to your petition. These services are remarkably adept in properly filling in bankruptcy forms and knowing exactly what information is required in a given line. Typically supplied with the latest forms released by the government, preparers can complete your petition in a short amount of time and are under your strict instructions. Compared to lawyers or assistants of lawyers, petition preparers often charge a lower fee and ideal for individuals who are filing petitions without the benefit of an attorney.
Note that petition preparers have no affiliation with bankruptcy lawyers so they won’t be able to provide legal counsel. Hence, you may not ask them about what properties are exempt, what type of Chapter you file, or any other question best left to the discretion of an attorney. This is perhaps the biggest drawback of settling for a petition preparer. As a single petitioner, you will have to do all the research yourself and decide on whether or not certain information should be listed in your file. Once you’ve determined those, you can communicate the information to your preparer for documentation. The good news is that filing Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 petitions aren’t highly complex. Hence, you should be able to perform this duty with just the help of petition preparers and still get the approval you want from the court.
How to Choose One?
Of course, it’s important to note that not all petition preparers are the same. Following are some factors to look for when choosing a business to serve your needs:
- Look for one that provides you with a written contract containing a rundown of their fees and what they actually do. A requirement for petition preparers is that they don’t insinuate or use the word legal in their marketing.
- Opt for something that charges anything between $100 and $200 – any more than that and they’re actually ripping you off.
- Note that petition preparers are not allowed to take filing fees from so that they can serve the petition to the court themselves. Their job is strictly limited to typing up the petition. If the preparer is offering this additional service, then steer clear of them.
- A fee disclosure service is also required from preparers, attaching a document stating exactly how much was charged from you.
- Documents prepared by petition preparers must also contain their tax identification number or social security number.
Typically, petition preparers are identified as debt relief agencies operating under the limits of the federal bankruptcy code. Their services are therefore limited and any claims to the contrary should be looked on warily. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad however – some of them provide the best service and makes your bankruptcy petition so much easier. Take your time in comparing each one before making a decision.