Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions: How to Keep Your House after Bankruptcy

You may have reached a point where paying your bills seems insurmountable and you’ve decided to file for bankruptcy. There are certain assets, such as your home, that you’d like to retain, but you’re not sure if that’s possible.

Florida’s bankruptcy laws do allow exemptions; an exemption simply means that you can keep the asset in question. Before we get too far into the scope of allowances, however, we should take a look at the two types of bankruptcy you’re likely to consider.

How To File for Bankruptcy in Florida

Your first decision in preparing to file for bankruptcy is to determine whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is the most sensible choice for your unique circumstances. There are some major differences between the two.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

In a Chapter 7, you liquidate your unsecured debts. You are no longer responsible for paying debts such as credit cards and medical bills – they’re wiped out. The state of Florida considers you eligible for a Chapter 7 if you have little or no income or assets. Your house may also be included in a Chapter 7; however, if you have negative or no equity built up, it could be exempt. In other words, you may not have to sell your house in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Conversely, Chapter 13 is a reorganization of your debts. That means that you don’t qualify for a Chapter 7 because you make too much money. You have the earning potential to repay at least a portion of your debts. The trustee will establish a repayment plan that allows you to get caught up on the debts you owe, such as a mortgage, auto loans, and credit cards.

It’s recommended that you discuss your options with a qualified bankruptcy attorney before you make a decision about filing. The experts at Florida Law Advisers, P.A. are available for a free initial consultation. Contact us at (844) 265-2165 to schedule an appointment.

Florida Bankruptcy Means Test

Congress enacted the Means Test in 2005 in order to determine a person’s eligibility for Chapter 7. It’s a two-part test that considers your expenses, income, and family size to establish how much disposable income you have available to repay your debts.

Part 1

Determine whether your income for the most recent six months is lower than your state’s median income based on the household size matching your own. You automatically pass the test if your income is lower than the median.

If your income’s higher than your state’s median, you will need to continue to part 2 of the test to see if you may still qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Part 2

In the second step of the Means Test, you’re required to calculate your monthly disposable income. Disposable income is established by calculating your gross monthly income and then deducting allowable expenses. You then project your disposable income over the next five years. At this point, you must determine in which of the three income levels you qualify:

  • If it is less than $8,175, you pass the Means Test.
  • You may be eligible for Chapter 7 if your disposable income is between $8,175 and $13,650, and your “disposable income is less than 25% of your outstanding unsecured debt.”
  • If your projected disposable income is greater than $13,650 over the next five years, you do not qualify for Chapter 7.

Consult a knowledgeable Tampa bankruptcy attorney to assist you with determining the best course of action for your unique situation.

Florida Homestead Exemption Statute

Florida does not allow the use of federal bankruptcy exemptions; the state uses its own exemption codes. The Florida Homestead Exemption Statute is one such vehicle for determining eligibility for retaining certain assets, such as your home.

According to Florida’s homestead exemption rules, there is not a restriction on how much of your home’s equity you can exempt. There are two property size distinctions, however. In order to qualify for the homestead exemption, your property must be no larger than ½ an acre if within city limits or 160 acres outside of a municipality

Contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney at Florida Law Advisers, P.A. for a more comprehensive analysis of your financial situation and Florida’s bankruptcy laws. We are available for a free initial consultation.

Bankruptcy and Foreclosure

If you are behind in your mortgage payments and the lender’s threatening you with foreclosure, it may be time to consider bankruptcy. By filing either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, you are automatically provided a stay from all creditor collection actions or garnishments until the case is resolved.

A qualified attorney can help you determine the best course of action. The experienced lawyers at Florida Law Advisers, P.A. in Tampa have successfully assisted many homeowners to lower their mortgage payments and prevent foreclosure through bankruptcy.

Each situation is unique, and while filing bankruptcy is one option, it may not be the best choice for you. Your attorney will evaluate your case and determine the best route to return you to financial health. Our attorneys may be able to challenge your lender’s right to foreclose on your home.

Choosing a Florida Bankruptcy Attorney

If you are researching Florida bankruptcy and exemptions, your financial situation may be at the point of needing immediate legal intervention. A delay in getting the assistance you need could cost you further unnecessary expenses and stress. The experts at Florida Law Advisers, P.A. are dedicated to helping each of our clients find a way to move forward and regain financial control.

We have years of experience in stopping wage garnishments, creditor collections and harassment, and foreclosures. Contact us 24/7 by calling (844) 771-4322 or send us an online message. A professional member of our team will advise you on what you should bring with you to your free initial consultation with one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys. Contact us today to discover the options available to you.

How To File Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer — Should You Do It Yourself?

Want to know how to file bankruptcy without a lawyer? The next question you should ask is if you should.

If you have been trying to manage your debt and pay down bills only to feel yourself slipping further in the hole, it may be time to consider declaring bankruptcy. You have the option between filing on your own or hiring a bankruptcy attorney to represent you. If you want to know how to file bankruptcy without a lawyer, read below so you know what to expect.

Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

If you plan on filing yourself and need to know how to file bankruptcy without a lawyer, you first need to decide what type of personal bankruptcy makes the most sense for your situation. Depending on what you want to accomplish, you may file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Each is also dependent on the assets you have, your income, and what you want to keep.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

When you file Chapter 7, you ask the court to erase certain debts that may include credit cards, judgments, and medical bills. The flip side to wiping out all of your debt is that you may also have to liquidate certain assets. Florida’s bankruptcy exemption laws, however, allow you to keep certain property, such as your home (if it meets certain requirements), pension, and retirement account.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

If your income is too high to allow you to file for a Chapter 7, you may consider a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You are required to have a steady job in order to set up a payment plan that satisfies your creditors. A typical plan is structured for 60 months and allows you to stop foreclosure proceedings and auto repossessions. You can also lower interest rates and payment amounts.

How To File for Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer

If you feel that you simply cannot afford to add another debt to your burden, consider how to file for bankruptcy without a lawyer. In which case, you plan to manage all of the paperwork, filing, and attendance requirements on your own. The following schedule will help keep you on track:

1. Collect all Required Documents

Collect all of the required documents you will need for filing either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

  • Paystubs that document your wages for the last 60 days if employed
  • Tax returns for the last two years
  • Bank statements if required
  • Documentation of homeownership if it applies: mortgage statement, deed
  • Credit reports that list all of your creditors along with addresses and phone numbers as well as outstanding balances

2. Enroll in a Credit Counseling Class

Florida bankruptcy laws require you to attend a credit counseling class before you file your forms. The most economical and convenient alternative is to take a Florida pre-filing bankruptcy credit counseling course online. Find an approved course through the list provided by the Department of Justice. Course costs may vary between $10 and $50, with online courses among the least expensive. You will receive a certificate of completion, which you must show proof of before completing your bankruptcy forms.

3. Complete the Bankruptcy Forms

Once you have the documentation you’ll need, you can proceed with completing the forms, which can be found on the Middle District of Florida Bankruptcy Court‘s website.

4. Print Forms

Be prepared to print about two dozen different forms, and double that if you want to keep copies for yourself. If you don’t have a printer at home, the local library is a low-cost alternative.

5. Determine Filing Fee

In addition to your pre-filing credit counseling and post-debtor education courses, you will also be required to pay a $335 filing fee with the court if you earn above 150% of the federal poverty line, which can be made in installments. You may qualify for a fee waiver if your income is below the poverty line.

6. File Forms at Courthouse

You can either mail in or hand-deliver your paperwork to the local courthouse. It’s recommended to call your courthouse and find out what their procedure is for accepting bankruptcy filings and deliver the documents in person. The automatic stay goes into immediate effect once you’ve filed your paperwork. That means your debtors are notified, and they can no longer contact you.

7. Mail Forms to Trustee

Once you file your documents with the court, you will be assigned a bankruptcy trustee who will be the administrator for your case. It’s important to contact your trustee in a timely manner to find out what paperwork they require.

8. Attend a Post-Filing Course

The post-filing course is offered on the Internet, by phone, or in an actual classroom. It follows a similar format to the pre-filing course and provides you with a certificate once completed. You must file your certificate with the clerk’s office.

9. Attend the 341 Meeting

The 341 is also known as a meeting of creditors. It takes place within 40 days after your bankruptcy filing and is held in a meeting room. You meet with your trustee who will ask you a series of questions to determine if you honestly completed your forms. Creditors, such as car lenders, may also attend.

Relying on the Expertise of an Experienced Bankruptcy Attorney

The attorneys at Florida Law Advisers appreciate the fact that you don’t want to add another layer of responsibility to your already overburdened pocketbook; however, consider the advantages of hiring an experienced Florida bankruptcy attorney before you embark on the journey of representing yourself.

Consider the statistics before you spend the time and money representing yourself. The Pro Se Annual Report for 2014 published by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California indicates a significant disparity between pro se and attorney represented bankruptcy cases that were successfully discharged. With all chapters taken into consideration, only 48.2% of the Pro Se cases were discharged as opposed to 82.1% of those represented by an attorney.

Take advantage of our free initial consultation to discover the benefits of hiring an experienced low-income bankruptcy lawyer.

  • Expertise: One of the most important aspects of hiring an attorney is the benefit of his or her expertise. Our bankruptcy attorneys have years of experience successfully helping people like you solve their financial problems.
  • Accuracy: Think about the hours required for you to research, locate, and complete all of the required paperwork only to have your case dismissed because it was incomplete. With an attorney who knows the laws and requirements, you save valuable time and gain peace of mind in the process.
  • Advocacy: Representing yourself before a trustee can feel overwhelming and intimidating. Add to that the potential for a creditor to challenge the discharge or any number of other eventualities that could arise in a 341 meeting, and you have a recipe for disaster if you’re not properly represented by a skilled attorney.
  • Economics: You may feel like you’re saving money by representing yourself at the outset; however, consider the costs of refiling because your pro se case was dismissed.

Contact Florida Law Advisers, P.A. in Tampa, FL, to arrange a free initial consultation. One of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys will carefully review your case and discuss the best options for you to regain financial health. We offer flexible payment plans to assist you.

What Are The Benefits of Declaring Bankruptcy?

Declaring bankruptcy is rarely an easy path to take — even if there isn’t a chance you’ll actually be able to pay back your debts.

Declaring bankruptcy means your credit (and credit score) take a hit, and your ability to secure credit becomes much more difficult, if not impossible. Not to mention the public perception of actually having to file for bankruptcy. It’s not an easy thing to do.

But for people who are struggling with a massive amount of debt, the advantages of declaring bankruptcy often far outweigh the disadvantages. Discharging debt through bankruptcy often eliminate stress by putting an end to relentless collection calls and the anxiety that comes from mounting bills with no solution in sight.

Declaring bankruptcy moves you past that and on the path to rebuilding your financial future the right way.

Top 10 Benefits of Declaring Bankruptcy

1) A sense of relief

The first thing that many people experience after declaring bankruptcy is a sense of relief. If you have struggled with debt for years and have recently become overwhelmed by threats from creditors, bankruptcy offers a solution to help remove those stressors and put you back on the path to financial well-being.

2) Collection agencies calls will finally stop calling you

One of the most unpleasant aspects of owing money is the constant phone calls from relentless bill collectors. Sometimes it seems they will never end – especially if you owe money to multiple creditors. Once you file for bankruptcy, creditors and collection agencies are no longer allowed to contact you regarding the money you owe.

3) Your credit score may start to rise quickly

“Within a year, you’re way better off. It’s a pretty rapid rate of recovery.” 

Jaromir Nosal, Assistant Professor of Economics, Boston College

Some people are hesitant to file bankruptcy because they are worried that their credit score will take a nose dive. But if you have already skipped payments and are facing collection efforts, your credit score is probably already in terrible shape. While your score may experience a slight dip, you may actually be better off in the long-term by filing bankruptcy and focusing your efforts on reestablishing your credit.

4) You might be able to keep your property

When you file for bankruptcy, you may be eligible for certain exemptions related to your home and other tangible assets. These exemptions allow you to go through the bankruptcy process without losing any of your property. Attempts to repossess your car will also cease. Your eligibility to keep your property will hinge on the type of bankruptcy you file, so be sure to seek the services of an experienced Tampa bankruptcy attorney to ensure that you declare the right type of bankruptcy.

5) You will receive valuable educational guidance

One of the requirements of a bankruptcy filing is to complete credit counseling. This process is designed to help you better manage your expenses and avoid frivolous spending. You will learn how to stay on top of your financial obligations, your assets, and your income to help ensure that you do not make the same financial mistakes that caused you to go deep into debt. Ideally, credit counseling will help you better manage your household budget.

6) You learn to live within your budget

As you go through the bankruptcy process, you will have to learn to live without credit cards. Many people learn how to spend more wisely and develop better savings habits. By continuing to follow these practices, you can avoid financial catastrophes in the future.

7) Creditors will stop garnishing your wages

Depending on your individual situation, one or more of your creditors might threaten to garnish your wages. They may also threaten to seize your assets. If you are facing these threats, or if your wages are currently being garnished, declaring bankruptcy will trigger an “automatic stay.” The automatic stay mandates that creditors put an end to your wage garnishments and eviction threats.

8) You can focus your energies on increasing your earnings

When you declare bankruptcy, you will no longer have to devote countless hours to responding to collection calls, letters, and threats from creditors. If you are employed, you will be able to approach your work with a clearer mind and you may find that your work performance improves. You will also have more time to devote to career development activities that will help you boost your earnings and secure your future financial position.

9) You will not be tempted to spend your retirement savings

One of the pitfalls people face when they are in deep debt is the prospect of dipping into their retirement savings or social security to try to repay creditors. This is usually not wise and can create a recipe for disaster for your future. If you successfully file for bankruptcy, your debts will be wiped away and any savings you would have applied to repaying your creditors would be lost. When you file for bankruptcy, you will not be tempted to make this financial mistake.

10) You will realize that there is life after bankruptcy

When you are deep in debt, the future can seem very bleak. But a successful bankruptcy filing will put you on the path to a brighter future. With most or all of your debts wiped away, you can regain your focus on your family, employment, and spiritual pursuits that were likely neglected when you were struggling with your debts. In short, you will discover that there is life after bankruptcy.

What to do if you are considering declaring bankruptcy?

If you are facing insurmountable debts and have thought about declaring bankruptcy, the best step you can take is to seek the guidance of an experienced Tampa bankruptcy attorney. Make sure that you do not procrastinate, as you could be draining your retirement account or other protected assets to take care of debts that would be eliminated through a bankruptcy filing.

We invite you to contact us at Florida Law Advisers, P.A. to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled bankruptcy lawyers. During your consultation, we will review your current financial situation and review the specific ways that declaring bankruptcy will benefit you and your family. We look forward to serving as your trusted bankruptcy attorney.

8 Telltale Signs It’s Time to File for Bankruptcy If You Live In Florida

Knowing when it is time to file for bankruptcy is not always easy. If you are like many people who proceed with bankruptcy, there will not be one single clear sign that propels you to reach out to a bankruptcy attorney. Instead, you will likely base your decision on a combination of two or more of the indicators outlined below. Below are eight telltale signs it’s time to file for bankruptcy.

How You Know When It’s Time to File for Bankruptcy

1) Phone calls from bill collectors are out of control

One of the most frustrating parts of being in debt is contending with the constant phone calls from creditors. While creditors are forbidden from calling you after 9:00 pm and before 8:00 am, it is legal for collectors to call you between the hours of 8 am and 9 pm. If you are behind on payments to multiple creditors, then it may seem that your phone is constantly ringing.

2) It would take longer than two years to pay off your debts

An effective way to decide whether bankruptcy is a viable option is to determine whether you would be able to pay off all of your creditors within a two-year time frame. You can use this simple, three-step process to assess your ability to resolve your debts in 24 months:

  • Step One: Sit down and make a list of all of the dischargeable debt that you currently owe to your creditors.
  • Step Two: Add up the total debt from Step One and divide that number by 24 (the maximum number of monthly payments to consider).
  • Step Three: Look at your monthly income to determine whether you can afford to pay the amount calculated in Step Two each month.

If you find that the monthly payment that you calculate is far larger than your after-tax income, then you should seriously consider filing for bankruptcy. Otherwise, your debt situation could actually worsen over the next 12-24 months.

3) You are losing sleep at night

Nearly two-thirds of Americans are losing sleep due to financial strain. While minor sleep disturbances will not severely impact your ability to function, prolonged episodes of insomnia can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. If worries about your mounting debts are preventing you from sleeping at night, then it might be time to file for bankruptcy.

4) The pros of bankruptcy far outweigh the cons

It is no secret that bankruptcy is associated with a host of unpleasant consequences. Your bankruptcy will become a public matter, enabling virtually anyone to be able to access your filing. Additionally, filing fees can cost several hundred dollars and attorney fees will also apply if you seek legal guidance. You will also be more likely to encounter difficulty securing credit in the future because your bankruptcy will appeal on your credit report.

As unpalatable as these factors may seem, they may pale in comparison to your current financial situation. If your total debt is increasing by the day because you can no longer make the required payments, the financial strain may become unbearable and impossible to resolve in under two years with your current income. When you get to this point, the benefits of bankruptcy will begin to far outweigh the cons and bankruptcy becomes a viable option.

5) Your work performance is suffering

The last thing you need when you are struggling with debt is to lose your job. But insurmountable debt can take such a heavy toll on your everyday life that your work performance may begin to suffer. After all, it can be difficult to focus on your job if you are losing sleep and creditors are constantly calling your cell phone and place of employment. If your mounting debts are interfering with your work, then you need to take action and seek professional assistance with an experienced Tampa bankruptcy attorney.

6) Creditors are garnishing your paychecks

If you fail to repay your debts, your creditors may sue you for nonpayment. And if they win in court, they can garnish your wages and force your employer to turn over a portion of your wages to pay down your debts. While federal law prohibits creditors from taking more than 25 percent of your disposable income, this type of reduction in income can be devastating. Additionally, the situation can be embarrassing because your employer will know about your financial difficulties.

7) Your creditors refuse to consider a settlement

Some creditors are willing to accept a repayment amount that is lower than the total amount that you owe. If you are unable to repay your debts to your creditors and have been unable to get them to budge on the total amount that you owe them, then bankruptcy should be an option that you consider.

8) You are experiencing depression or anxiety

People who are struggling with debt are two times more likely to develop mental health problems. Depression and anxiety top the list of mental health issues that plague people who are overburdened by debt. If not properly treated, depression and anxiety can evolve into serious health problems, such as suicide or major depressive disorder. Bankruptcy may help relieve some of your symptoms simply by eliminating the constant phone calls and letters from creditors.

Ready to file for bankruptcy?

If crushing debt is causing problems for you at home and at work, bankruptcy can offer you a new financial beginning. If you are considering bankruptcy, the best step to take is to seek the expertise of a reputable Tampa bankruptcy attorney.

Contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.

During your consultation, we will outline how filing bankruptcy can put an end to the incessant collection calls, sleepless nights, and constant financial worries. We will walk you through the filing process and the discuss the many ways we can provide guidance and support to you as you prepare for bankruptcy. Finally, we are known for delivering long-term support to our clients. We look forward to helping you regain your financial footing!

Why You Should Hire a Bankruptcy Lawyer to Get Out of Debt

Getting out of debt can seem like an impossible task — especially if you are currently struggling to meet minimum payment obligations to your creditors. If you have reviewed your finances and find that your financial situation is worsening and there is no way you will be able to repay your debts within two or three years, you should consider bankruptcy as an option. Below are three key reasons why you should hire a bankruptcy lawyer to get out of debt.

How common is bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is more common than you may think. In 2018, there were 755,182 bankruptcies filed in the United States. And with the typical American now carrying $38,000 in personal debt, it is no surprise that bankruptcy filings are on the rise in many parts of the United States. With many Americans carrying an increasingly large amount of debt, a medical expense or other unplanned emergency can devastate a person’s financial situation.

Why should you hire a bankruptcy lawyer?

Preparing for bankruptcy involves much more than filing a petition and receiving a discharge of your debts. For example, you need to decide which type of bankruptcy to file, attend required credit counseling, properly complete all of your paperwork, and attend your 341 hearing. The best way to ensure that you successfully complete these steps is to seek legal guidance. Here are some of the many reasons why you should hire a bankruptcy lawyer:

1) Receive guidance on bankruptcy types

A seasoned bankruptcy attorney will sit down with you and explain the differences between the various types of bankruptcy. Then, your attorney will help you review your current financial situation to determine which type of bankruptcy is best for you. The three most common types of bankruptcy are as follows:

  • Chapter 7: Commonly called liquidation bankruptcy, this type of bankruptcy involves the sale of your non-exempt property to repay creditors. Not all people are eligible for Chapter 7, as there are specific income limits that must be met.
  • Chapter 11: This type of bankruptcy differs from Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 because it is designed to aid struggling businesses and corporations. The business typically continues to operate but their finances are restructured in an effort to maximize repayment to creditors.
  • Chapter 13: Also known as a reorganization bankruptcy, Chapter 13 involves the creation of a three to five-year payment plan to repay your debts. If you comply with your repayment plan, you might be allowed to keep your property.

2) Increase your chances of a successful filing

“According to Ed Flynn of the American Bankruptcy Institute, lawyers represented consumers in 91.5% of the 486,347 Chapter 7 cases filed in 2017. Lawyers had their clients debt discharged – meaning eliminated – in 96.2% of the cases…By contrast, people who represented themselves in Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, were successful just 66.7% of the time.” – Bill Fay, Debt.org

Hiring a bankruptcy lawyer greatly boosts the odds that your debts will be successfully discharged. In fact, over 96 percent of Chapter 7 cases that were handled by a bankruptcy attorney resulted in the successful elimination of their clients’ debts. People who chose to represent themselves instead of hiring an attorney were only successful 66.7% of the time.

3) Help simplify a complex process

The bankruptcy process is complex and can take months or even years to unfold. Because bankruptcy is overseen by the federal courts, it is critical to adhere to all of the regulations outlined by the court system. These regulations are not always straightforward or easy for the average person to understand. For these reasons alone, legal representation is recommended.

An experienced bankruptcy lawyer will help you understand these regulations and how they apply to your situation. Additionally, a lawyer can help you understand the role that bankruptcy trustees, credit counseling, liens, and liquidation each play in your bankruptcy. In short, a bankruptcy attorney will help you understand how the process works and help ensure that you fulfill your obligations once you have filed.

What can happen if you try to handle the bankruptcy process on your own?

“Individuals can file bankruptcy without an attorney, which is called filing pro se. However, seeking the advice of a qualified attorney is strongly recommended because bankruptcy has long-term financial and legal outcomes.”

Administrative Office of the United States Courts 

You are not always required to have an attorney to file bankruptcy. In fact, some people even decide to file for bankruptcy on their own and represent themselves. Others decide to represent themselves in an effort to save some money. But attempting to handle your bankruptcy without the guidance of an experienced attorney can leave you at increased risk for the following pitfalls:

  • Filing the wrong type of bankruptcy: If you mistakenly file the incorrect chapter type, you may lose property that you want to keep.
  • Incomplete or inaccurate paperwork: Failure to complete required paperwork thoroughly and correctly can jeopardize your filing.
  • Failure to meet deadlines: If you miss any key deadlines, the court has a right to dismiss your bankruptcy case.
  • Missed property exemptions: Failure to note the correct property exemptions on paperwork may cause you to lose your property.

Selecting the best bankruptcy lawyer in Tampa

As outlined above, there are many reasons why you should hire a bankruptcy lawyer to help you eliminate your debts. But not all bankruptcy attorneys are created equal. It is up to you to choose an attorney who will be responsive to your needs and guide you through each step of your bankruptcy filing until your debts are successfully discharged.

We invite you to contact us at Florida Law Advisers, P.A. to schedule a complimentary consultation with a member of our legal team. We will take the time to review your financial situation to see if bankruptcy is the best option to help you get out of debt. If you decide to hire Florida Law Advisers to handle your bankruptcy, we will make sure to provide you with the legal support and guidance you need during each phase of the bankruptcy process. We look forward to helping you achieve a fresh financial start.