What Does “pro se” Mean in Bankruptcy in New York?

In Bankruptcy Law “Pro Se” pronounced (pro-say) is the practice of filing for bankruptcy without an attorney.  Some legal sources and courts like to use the Latin name instead of plain English as another way to discourage people from filing for bankruptcy on their own.  Courts have little patience for bankruptcy petitioners that don’t know what they are doing, and trustees are not there to help you get it right like a teacher in a classroom.  You are expected to know what you are doing, so anyone filing pro se would need to learn a lot about bankruptcy law to get the discharge they hope for.  While in the United States anyone may represent himself or herself for almost any legal matter, this does not always mean they should.  Bankruptcy laws in New York are very complex, and one small mistake can be far more costly than hiring a qualified attorney to get it right in the first place.

The bankruptcy rules changed in 2005 and made it even harder for consumers to correctly file for bankruptcy on their own.  Qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection comes with a number of preliminary requirements, complicated forms, and other hoops to jump through.  For an attorney this is a walk in the park, it’s their job after all, but for the unprepared it is nearly impossible file correctly and extremely risky as well.   If done incorrectly your bankruptcy discharge could be dismissed.

In addition to a very complicated filing process that could lead to dismissal, pro se filers also rarely know how to properly use the New York State exemption system to effectively protect their assets when they file.  It happens all the time where a savvy pro se petitioner may technically file their paperwork correctly and even get a discharge, but was unable to protect their home, car, tax refunds and bank accounts.  If they were working with an attorney familiar with both New York and Federal exemptions they would have had a far better result.   If you want to come out better than before you filed, talk to an attorney.  It will save you time, money and a lot of stress.

If you live in New York and need to find affordable bankruptcy help please give the Law Offices of William Waldner a call at 212-244-2882 to arrange a free bankruptcy consultation.  We will show you that filing with an attorney is vastly more effective and safe than filing by yourself or through a dicey petition preparation service.

This article is intended for educational purposes only.  By reading this article no attorney-client relationship has been created.