Filing for bankruptcy involves several steps and although you can file on your own without any legal help, it's not really recommended. It is a better idea to hire a lawyer to help with your filing as it is less likely for you to miss important details. You might have heard that it is also possible for you to contact a trustee to help with your bankruptcy filing. Is there a difference between a lawyer and a trustee?
A bankruptcy trustee can actually be a lawyer and they do perform much the same duties as a court-appointed trustee. A trustee can be a trusted and well-versed in bankruptcy laws person who helps file with the court and holds your estate in trust. They help to sell off unsecured assets and property and make sure those funds are sent to your creditors.
A trustee accomplishes this by creating a separate entity of your debts and property that is apart from you. This can protect you from losing everything, including exempt property in a bankruptcy case, as only unsecured property can be sold off.
The US Trustee
There is another type of trustee in bankruptcy and they are always involved in your case. A US Trustee is part of the United States Department of Justice and it is there to supervise and oversee bankruptcy cases within the United States. This is to make sure that the laws are being followed in court and in the case of bankruptcy fraud, for example, if you have assets that can be sold off in bankruptcy that might have been hidden to protect it.
Most of the time the US Trustee works behind the scenes, but they can take a more active role in your bankruptcy and if this is the case, you will receive notification from their office of this fact. They will usually become more active in your case if your monthly income is higher than the average for your state and if you earn enough to file for Chapter 13 instead of Chapter 7. It is also possible for them to become involved if you have engaged in illegal activities such a perjury or fraud in the past.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is more of a payment plan than a complete sell-off of your debts. This means you can keep your assets during the bankruptcy process and your trustee will handle the payments to your creditors instead of selling off your property and other assets.