How to Pick the Best Bankruptcy Software
If you’re thinking about filing a bankruptcy case, you’re probably wondering about the cost and how you’re going to afford to hire an attorney. Have you thought about filing a bankruptcy case without paying an attorney to do it for you? If you’re an individual or a married couple (corporations still must have attorneys for this), you can file a Chapter 7 straight bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 repayment plan case without an attorney.
You’re said to be a “pro se” filer when you don’t have an attorney to represent you.
Pitfalls of Filing Without an Attorney
Before you decide to file without an attorney, do your homework. Your path may not be easy. To learn more about what to expect visit Filing Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer: Can or Should You?
Online Applications Come in Two Basic Varieties:
- Form-based: These offer the basic forms, usually in PDF format, and perhaps some level of explanation or guidance beyond what you’ll find in the official forms themselves.
- Interactive: Instead of filling out forms, you’ll answer questions online, and the software will take your answers and insert the data into the appropriate form.
What You Can Expect From Each Site
Except for the official form on the U.S. Courts website, this is that you can expect the commercial vendors to provide:
- instruction on the type of information and the level of detail you’ll need to provide,
- explanation of common terms,
- a way to save your work as you go so that you don’t have to enter all the info in one sitting,
- automatic math calculations,
- information specific to your jurisdiction, like state exemptions,
- instructions on where to file your case.
What Do the Guarantees Mean?
Note that all of these sites claim to guarantee that your forms will be accepted by the court or that you will receive a discharge.
That’s not quite what it seems. Guaranteed acceptance doesn’t mean that under all circumstances the court will accept your forms and allow the case to be filed. Guaranteed discharge does not mean that you will receive a discharge. Even an experienced bankruptcy attorney won't make that guarantee. All it means is that if your paperwork is insufficient or you don’t get your discharge, the company will refund your money. Maybe.
Popular Bankruptcy Preparation Websites
Beyond the basics, here’s what you can expect from six bankruptcy document vendors, and from the U.S.Court’s own official forms site.
The official bankruptcy forms are available free of charge from the website of the U.S. Courts. You can even fill them out using your computer or tablet and print them ready to file with the court. You cannot save them online, but you can download each form to your computer, fill it out, and save it. The US Courts also provides an instruction booklet to help you fill out the forms.
At $49, 1ClickBankruptcy.com is a pretty bare-bones application without some of the bells and whistles you’ll find in some of the others. It is apparently not interactive, but instead provides forms you download to your computer and fill out yourself.
This will allow you to work offline as you gather and enter the information you’ll need.
Document Aid.com offers a short live demo to give the feel of the data entry process. This company offers three levels of service.
- Basic. For $49 this level guides you through document preparation.
- Managed. For $89 the company provides someone to review your paperwork to make sure it’s complete, but not to make sure that the information is correct.
- Full: For $188, you fill out their “ultra easy questionnaire,” and the company fills out the forms for you. Again, they provide no legal advice, but they do claim that they can put you in touch with attorneys who can answer your questions for free.
StandardLegal.com provides do-it-yourself forms legal forms not just for bankruptcy. You can find forms for sales contracts, powers of attorney, living wills, promissory notes, and the others.
For $49 you’ll get bare bones fill-in-the-blank PDF bankruptcy forms, very similar to what you can get for free from the US Courts website. They claim to include a booklet of instructions written by a practicing attorney.
Bankruptcy-CPR.com is a little pricier than other services, but it appears to provide an easier guided interface. You can check it out with a free demo to give you a feel for the data collection process. The cost is $149.99 for Chapter 7 and $299.99 for Chapter 13. There are also add-ons for customer support outside of normal business hours, forms for turnover of garnishment money, and a “review for common issues”.
For $49, and claiming “no manuals to read” and “no learning curve”, ProBankrutpcySoftware.com is a cloud-based program that offers a demo of its data collection process. Beyond that, there isn’t much you can tell from the basic information they provide on their landing page.
EZBankruptcyForms.com is what is says it is, a forms-based program. It offers a tutorial to help guide you through and a limited ability to populate the forms when basic information is entered. You can purchase the basic version for $44, which will accommodate 30 or fewer unsecured creditors, or the extended version for $47.50 for cases with between 31 and 42 creditors. You can also pay a little more and receive a “legal ebook,” which is not identified.