If you live in Wisconsin and are considering enlisting the services of a bankruptcy petition preparer to help with your bankruptcy petition, you might want to think again. Due to the poor quality of their work and shady business practices, bankruptcy judges are cracking down on bankruptcy preparation services.
Bankruptcy petition preparers are services where a non-lawyer assists bankruptcy filers, for a fee, with putting together the necessary paperwork. Unlike attorneys and other legal professionals, state law does not require training or set minimum standards for petition preparers. These services often target low-income consumers through flyers and advertisements, promising that they can stop wage garnishment, foreclosure and calls from debt collectors.
Court Angered by Unscrupulous Preparers
Wisconsin bankruptcy judges say that there have been many instances where bankruptcy petition preparation services have done a very poor job with bankruptcy filings. One filing was so lacking that the bankruptcy filer’s name was listed incorrectly on the petition and required paperwork was missing, causing the judge to reject the bankruptcy petition.
In other instances, some petition preparers charged their clients preparation fees, but did not complete the work that they were supposed to do. There have also been instances where the preparer overcharged their client. Despite the fact that courts have ordered preparers to issue refunds for overcharged clients, many preparers have not complied.
Angered by the problems the petition preparers have caused, Wisconsin judges have responded by imposing fines and holding some preparers in contempt of court. In addition, judges have capped the maximum fee preparers can charge at $75. Court officials say that tough economic times have made people down on their luck easy prey for unscrupulous petition preparers.
A Bankruptcy Attorney Can Help
If you are considering filing bankruptcy, the seemingly inexpensive services of bankruptcy petition preparers may seem tempting. However, proceeding into bankruptcy without the advice and guidance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney can ultimately cost you more. Unlike petition preparers, a bankruptcy attorney can review your situation and recommend the best debt relief option for your individual circumstances.
Source: Journal Sentential, “Bankruptcy Filings Botched,” Cary Spivak, 11/30/2011.