This article is written by Peters and Associates.
Strictly speaking, the filing fees for bankruptcy are $335 for Chapter 7 and $310 for Chapter 13. These are the costs paid to the court when a case is filed.
If you represent yourself without using an attorney, which is called filing pro se, or if your income is low enough to qualify for assistance through the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, the only other costs are for pre-filing and post-filing credit counseling classes.
Credit counseling certificates are required to file and get your discharge.
Several companies hold the classes in person, over the phone or online. Both classes cost about $25, although the price can vary slightly depending on the company.
Most people do not qualify for free legal aid, and don’t have the skill set required to handle bankruptcy on their own. Nor is filing pro se recommended.
Depending on which bankruptcy law firm you choose, in Las Vegas, attorney fees for a Chapter 7 generally range from $800 to $2,500. That means the out-of-pocket total for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy usually will range from $1,160 ($800+$335+$25) to $2,860 ($2,500+$335+$25).
Upfront attorney fees for nonemergency Chapter 13 bankruptcies are about the same.
Additionally, courts can prohibit attorneys’ fees they consider too high, so most firms tend to charge similar fees.
So why do fees vary? In my opinion, fees depend on the level of service you’re going to get from your lawyer before, during and after your filing.
For most people, even considering bankruptcy is a terrifying ordeal. Is your lawyer going to hold your hand, walk you through it and alleviate your fears? Will he or she recommend bankruptcy alternatives if bankruptcy isn’t the right option? How about help you rebuild your credit score after the bankruptcy is complete? Or is the firm a “bankruptcy mill” that values efficiency and volume over customer service?
According to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Bruce Markell, “the practice of law is a professional service, not a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all product.” I agree.
It’s nearly impossible to quote an accurate fee before knowing the facts of the case; that is why most bankruptcy lawyers offer free consultations. Bankruptcy cases vary, and a fast-food model just doesn’t work.
Note: In rare circumstances, pro se filers may be eligible to have their filing fees waived.
Please note: The information in this column is intended for general purposes only and is not to be considered legal or professional advice of any kind. You should seek advice that is specific to your problem before taking or refraining from any action and should not rely on the information in this column.