Need to file bankruptcy but don't think you can afford an attorney? Learn how to get free legal help to get your fresh start in Lexington, Kentucky.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated November 4, 2020
If you’ve been led to believe that you’re “too broke” to file for bankruptcy, you’re not alone. Too often, Americans who are struggling with medical bills, credit card debt, and other overdue accounts are told that filing for consumer bankruptcy is an expensive process because working with a bankruptcy law firm is expensive. While it’s true that private law offices charge fees to remain operational – and there are very few “free bankruptcy lawyers” available beyond those who work or volunteer at legal aid societies – the process of filing bankruptcy isn’t expensive. Most low-income filers don’t even need to hire an attorney to file bankruptcy successfully.
Do I Need a Lawyer to File Bankruptcy?
If you don’t earn much income and you don’t own a lot of expensive property other than your home, you’ll probably benefit more from filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy than Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Why? Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief is very generous, you probably don’t need to hire a bankruptcy attorney to navigate this process successfully, and (unlike Chapter 13) Chapter 7 bankruptcy doesn’t require you to repay any of your credit card bills and other eligible unsecured debts.
The Chapter 7 bankruptcy process is both generous and straightforward because it’s only made available to those least likely to be able to pay their debts any time soon. Meaning, only members of low-income households who meet certain income eligibility limits are permitted to seek this form of debt relief. Bankruptcy courts assume that if Chapter 7 filers can’t afford to pay their debts, they also can’t afford to have an attorney file bankruptcy on their behalf. So, the courts intentionally keep this process straightforward enough that most filers don’t need a lawyer’s help to prepare their bankruptcy petitions.
Are You Filing a Chapter 13 Reorganization Bankruptcy?
Some consumer bankruptcy filers do need to work with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer to file their cases successfully. For example, if you’re ineligible to file under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, you can work with an attorney to file under Chapter 13 instead. Filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy relief without professional legal advice is a bad idea because this type of bankruptcy is famously complex. If you try to create your Chapter 13 repayment plan alone, your bankruptcy case will be statistically likely to fail. Paying for an attorney’s assistance with a Chapter 13 case is affordable, as fees get integrated into a filer’s bankruptcy repayment plan.
Low-income filers who own small businesses, real estate other than their homes, and/or unusually expensive property also generally benefit from seeking help with their legal issues. As do filers with disabilities who can’t effectively file on their own. They can either pay for help with their bankruptcy cases (like Chapter 13 filers) or they can seek assistance through a legal aid society.
Getting Free Bankruptcy Help Through Legal Aid
Legal aid societies are nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing free and low-cost legal services for members of the community who are in need. Most of the time, prospective clients are screened for eligibility based on their household income level. The less income your household earns, the more likely it is that you’ll qualify for legal aid services at most organizations located in Kentucky.
What Is It Like Working with Legal Aid?
Working with a legal aid society will allow you to develop the same kind of attorney-client relationship with a licensed attorney as you would if you chose to work with a private bankruptcy law firm. You might have to wait a little while before you begin working with your lawyer one-on-one, though. The services that legal aid societies provide are often in high demand. As a result, they generally screen clients to determine who is most in need of their help and they may put new clients on a waitlist when their resources are being stretched thinly enough that their lawyers can’t take on new clients immediately.
How Do I Know If I’m Eligible for Legal Aid?
As noted above, you’re more likely to qualify for services through a legal aid society if you earn very little income. Many legal aid societies throughout the United States adhere to the model established by the Legal Services Corporation, which provides funding to organizations that serve community members whose annual household income doesn’t exceed 125% of the federal poverty line. With that said, every organization is different and enforces different eligibility criteria. You can connect with individual organizations directly to determine whether you qualify for their free or low-cost assistance.
What Are the Legal Aid Organizations Near Me?
To connect with civil legal aid societies in the Lexington area, use the contact information (phone numbers, addresses, etc.) listed below. If one organization has a very long waitlist or doesn’t meet your needs, try another. Wait times and eligibility criteria for these services can vary significantly.
Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky
120 North Front Avenue, Prestonsburg, KY 41653
Kentucky Legal Aid
1700 Destiny Lane, Bowling Green, KY 42104
Legal Aid of the Bluegrass
104 East Seventh Street, Covington, KY 41011-1740
Legal Aid Society
416 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard, Suite 300, Louisville, KY 40202-2354
Nationwide Service (NYC Office)
Getting a Free Evaluation from a Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you’re unsure of whether you should file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’re unsure of whether you should file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief solo or with the help of an attorney, or you have questions about the bankruptcy process that you’d like to ask a professional, here’s some good news. You can schedule an initial consultation with a bankruptcy attorney without any obligation to work with that lawyer moving forward. Most firms that advertise consumer bankruptcy as a “practice area” even offer free consultations.
You’ll want to do a little research before scheduling a consultation with any particular law firm. Most attorneys’ websites will give you a sense of a firm’s approach and level of experience. You’ll want to schedule a case evaluation with a firm that allows you to speak with an attorney, not a paralegal. Paralegals are knowledgeable but are not permitted to give legal advice. You can find Lexington bankruptcy attorneys by searching the websites of the following organizations:
Local Lexington bar associations
The Kentucky State Bar Association
The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA)
Filing Without a Bankruptcy Attorney
Everyone who chooses to prepare their bankruptcy paperwork without a lawyer’s help is classified as filing “pro se.” This term will only matter to you much if you come across it while researching the bankruptcy process. If you see the term “pro se” and you’re filing your case on your own, this means you.
Using Upsolve’s Free Web Tool to File Bankruptcy on Your Own
If you choose to prepare your bankruptcy petition yourself, it’s important to know where you can find free, reputable guidance that will help you file as efficiently and effectively as possible. A great place to start your Chapter 7 filing research is Upsolve.org. Upsolve is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping those struggling with debt find answers to their questions and resources that will help them resolve their financial challenges.
If you’re filing a simple Chapter 7 case, you may be eligible to access and prepare your bankruptcy forms through Upsolve’s free online filing tool. This secure, easy-to-follow platform will take the guesswork out of preparing your bankruptcy forms. If you’ve ever used an online program like TurboTax to prepare your personal taxes, the way that this tool works will feel familiar. Take a few minutes to see if you qualify to use this tool, as it will be very helpful to you if you’re eligible to use it.
Additionally, Upsolve provides a free resource to everyone struggling with debt, regardless of whether they’re self-filing a bankruptcy case or not. The Upsolve Learning Center is a free and login-free resource available to the public at all times. Here, you’ll find hundreds of articles (written by legal professionals) about the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process, debt management resources, Chapter 13 bankruptcy, etc.
Self-help Resources at the Bankruptcy Court
If you head to a Kentucky bankruptcy court during business hours, you can tell the court clerk that you’re interested in picking up free information for bankruptcy filers. The clerk can direct you to free, printed guides about various bankruptcy-related subjects. For example, you may use these guides to determine how your local court handles filing fee waiver requests or what to expect from a meeting of creditors in Kentucky.
Gene Snyder United States Courthouse
601 West Broadway Louisville, KY 40202
Community Trust Building
100 East Vine Street Lexington, KY 40507
Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a great way for many people to achieve a fresh financial start but it isn’t the only debt relief solution available. If you’re unsure of whether filing for bankruptcy is the right option for your financial situation, you can schedule a free credit counseling session to explore all of your options.
If you’ve done “your homework” and you’re confident that filing for bankruptcy is the way to go, you have many no-cost and fee-based resources to choose from as you navigate this process. If you want to work with an attorney, you can connect with a private firm or see if you’re eligible for legal aid services. If you choose to file pro se, you can work through the process guided by reputable free resources. Both approaches can get you where you want to go – you simply need to choose whichever approach is best for your situation uniquely.