Debtors who are unfamiliar with the
bankruptcy filing process may assume that only they or their attorneys are
afforded the ability to complete a formal application for relief under the Bankruptcy
Code. However, this is not the case. An individual may also hire a
bankruptcy petition preparer for this task.
As for what a bankruptcy petition
preparer is supposed to do, Section 110 is fairly explicit as to what
forms are to be filled out and how. Bankruptcy petition preparers are to
sign their name and address on the completed document, as well as the names of any
other persons involved with its preparation, and then submit this petition to the
applicant party to sign where necessary. It must be stressed that
a bankruptcy petition preparer cannot submit this form on the
debtor’s behalf as per the letter of the law.
This incapacity of bankruptcy petition preparers
to file the petitions they ready for the sake of bankruptcy seekers is just the
proverbial tip of the iceberg, though, in terms of how they are restricted by
the Bankruptcy Code. As much as the bankruptcy petition preparer is not a
stand-in for the debtor, he/she/it is not a surrogate for the debtor’s legal
representative. Appointed bankruptcy petition preparers are at no point in
the completion of the application form to confer legal advice on prospective
relief seekers. Among the things they are forbidden to influence debtors
in: whether or not they should file
for bankruptcy, under what chapter of Title 11 is most
appropriate for them to file, and whether their debts can be discharged.
Moreover, bankruptcy law is very strict when
it comes to the compensation a bankruptcy petition preparer may receive.
Going back to Section 110, bankruptcy petition preparers may only
receive a certain maximum fee for the services they render, an amount
nailed down by either the Supreme Court or the Judicial Conference of the
United States. Furthermore, they may not accept monies associated with the
filing fees designated for the court.