Petition Preparer

By Daisy Rogozinsky
/
June 13, 2022

If you file for bankruptcy, you have the option of paying a petition preparer to type your bankruptcy documents for you. In this article, we’ll define the term “petition preparer” and explain what they can and cannot do.  

Key Takeaways

  • A petition preparer is a non-lawyer who helps bankruptcy debtors file their bankruptcy documents for a fee
  • Petition preparers may not give legal advice or represent debtors in court
  • Petition prepares can only help with typing paperwork and must charge a reasonable fee to do so 

What Is a Petition Preparer?

In bankruptcy, a petition preparer is any party - other than a lawyer - who charges to help debtors prepare bankruptcy documents. The petition preparer will assist debtors in preparing the necessary bankruptcy forms to file either manually or using bankruptcy software. 

Benefits of Petition Preparers

Petition preparers are advantageous for a few reasons, including their ability to:

  • Prepare forms for people who don’t have access to a computer
  • Generate bankruptcy documents quickly and easily using bankruptcy software 
  • Charge lower fees than lawyers, usually between 100 and 200 dollars

What Petition Preparers Cannot Do

It’s important to note that bankruptcy preparers are not always attorneys and do not always have a legal education. This means that they cannot provide legal advice or represent debtors in court. Things petition prepares cannot do include:

  • Tell a debtor what type of bankruptcy to file
  • Tell a debtor which debts or assets to list or not list
  • Tell a debtor what property to exempt
  • File the papers for the debtor
  • Represent the debtor in court 
  • Accept money on the debtor’s behalf

For this reason, it’s best to think of a petition preparer as a typing service that takes information debtors give them and transcribes it onto the official forms. They cannot take any kind of legal responsibility for a case. It is up to the debtor to understand the workings of their bankruptcy case on their own, including:

 

  • What debts will be discharged
  • What will happen to their property
  • What property they can exempt

Who Can Become a Petition Preparer

There are no legal requirements for petition preparers in terms of education, experience, tests, or background checks. However, anybody who charges a fee for preparing bankruptcy forms must follow a number of specific business practices, including:

  • Providing written disclosure statements summarizing the different kinds of bankruptcy and their associated procedures
  • Identifying themselves in marketing materials as debt relief agencies providing services under the federal bankruptcy code
  • Including their name and social security or tax identification number on the documents they prepare
  • Providing a written contract defining their services and fees
  • Filing a fee disclosure statement with the court stating how much they charged for their services

They also may not:

  • Collect or handle the bankruptcy filing fees or other court fees 
  • Charge an unreasonable fee for their services
  • Use the word “legal” or any similar term in their marketing materials

If a petition preparer causes legal or economic injuries to a debtor because of their negligence or commits fraud, deception, or unfair conduct, debtors have a right to request compensation from them in the form of actual damages, service fees, and legal fees.

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