10 Pieces of Bankruptcy Information Everyone Should Know

You're Better Off With a Lawyer
OK, so maybe your lawyer won’t have to give a press conference (like Joe and Teresa Giudice's lawyer) but it's still smart to hire one. Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Filing for bankruptcy without a lawyer is about as smart as jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. Sure, there's a slim chance you'll make it, but you're guaranteed to get beat up in the process.

People filing for bankruptcy aren't required to hire a lawyer, but in most cases it's strongly recommended. Bankruptcies are extremely complicated legal processes with loads of paperwork, deadlines and bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Forget one deadline or file incomplete paperwork and your case will be tossed out. Mess up badly enough and you may forfeit the right to file a second time [source: U.S. Courts].

The only type of bankruptcy that you should even consider filing on your own is a Chapter 7 case. If you have no home, no car and earn below the state median income, your case will be fairly straightforward [source: Bulkat]. But it will still require filing the right forms and showing up for the right hearings. If you can't afford a bankruptcy lawyer, many law schools and community organizations offer free legal services, including free bankruptcy preparation.

One of the best reasons to hire a bankruptcy lawyer is to avoid taking any actions that smell like bankruptcy fraud. If you try to hide or destroy assets that could be sold by the bankruptcy trustee, that's a federal crime and could land you in prison [source: U.S. Courts].