My Fiances Aunt paid someone $200 to help her with her BK. She gave her paper work and told her to fill it out and file it herself. We don't know how to answer any of the questions that pertain to the documents and we are very confused. Is this legal in California or can we request for a refund. She said she prepared what is called a "skeleton file"??? HELP
3 Answers from Attorneys
It's not clear what this person did for you, and whether the individual was an attorney or just a bankruptcy petition preparer. Bankruptcy attorneys around Southern California generally charge between $1500-$2000 for complete bankruptcy representation in Chapter 7 some as high as $3,000.
These rates are usually package services, meanng that the overall hourly rate is discounted because the office thinks they can do the whole thing more quickly and efficiently than just one aspect of the case. http://www.absolutebankruptcy.org/Chapter_7_Objections.htm
I think bankruptcy petition preparers are allowed to charge $200-$250 MAX. I'm pretty sure that is for full petition preparation, not just a skeleton filing. Does your contract say that she was only going to do a skeleton filing?
The best way to get a clear answer is to look on the California Bar Association website (http://www.calbar.ca.gov/) or call them 213-765-1200 or 213-756-1000. They can tell you whether what she did was legal and help you get money if it was illegal. They can also take the complaint against her. If what she did was illegal, you should let someone know so she doesn't continue to take advantage of people when they need help the most.
A CA bk petition preparer is allowed to charge no more than $200 to fill out your petition... no legal advise... no representation in court... no post-filing issue resolution. It is not "legal help." If this person failed to prepare a complete petition for you including all schedules, you should sue him/her in small claims. As for your BK... this is a legal problem... go see an attorney that handles BK as a regular part of his/her practice. By the way, most trustees when you go to your hearing will inquire about your petition preparer's name, address, amount charged and whether or not they provided any legal advise. Bottom line: you get what you pay for!
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