If you're facing overwhelming debt and have been seeking help and guidance to file a chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy you may have come across some ads that seem too good to be true. For example, you may have heard something like "file bankruptcy for only $400". Ads such as this are generally put out by what is knows as a "bankruptcy petition preparer". A bankruptcy petition preparer is not an expert in bankruptcy and legally can not give anyone legal advice. Their sole purpose is to type your information into bankruptcy forms. They can not advice a debtor on what exemptions to use, what chapter they should file and are not able to even determine if someone is eligible for bankruptcy.
Although a debtor may feel that they need the help of a preparer to file their case, really they are paying someone $300-$500 to simply type data into forms.
We have seen many debtors come to us for help after they filed bankruptcy on their own with the help of a petition preparer because things went sideways. Often times, had the debtor had good, solid legal advice from an experienced attorney they would not have had any problems in their case. The biggest mistake that I see people make who file on their own is that they poorly time their bankruptcy filing. Many times, had they had good legal advice on when to file they could have saved thousands of dollars because a good attorney could have done some crucial pre-bankruptcy planning.
Here is a recent article that discusses the problems and dangers of hiring a non-bankruptcy petition preparer. Judge Stops Non Lawyer Bankruptcy Preparation Firm