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How to File Bankruptcy in Florida

How to File Bankruptcy in Florida2018-10-25T17:29:04+00:00

There are a few factors that are related to financial matters. A few common reasons include unmanageable debt, illness, divorce, home foreclosure, or sudden unemployment.

In fact, the average credit card debt in Florida is a whopping $5,603 per person. In addition, foreclosure rates are also as staggering, one out of every 1,559 FL homes is currently in foreclosure.

If you have found yourself in similar situations, then you are probably battling other personal problems that come with living in debt. The fear of losing your automobile, home or your income can drain a person emotionally & physically. You have probably even considered Filing for Bankruptcy .

If you are thinking “Can I File Bankruptcy?” you are surprisingly not alone. Close to a million people file bankruptcy each year in America. Bankruptcy is a device established by the US Government to help struggling Americans find relief from massive debt. You may want to consider bankruptcy if it’s best for you.

What Is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy provides people with the freedom to resolve their debt while still working with lenders in a legal capacity. It is initiated by an individual filing a Petition with their nearest bankruptcy court. The Petition can be filed by an individual or by spouses jointly. When the bankruptcy is complete, the filer will ‘exit’ and will have a chance for a fresh start on their finances.

Throughout the bankruptcy process, a trustee is appointed to oversee the deatils of the case. His or her responsibilities will vary and depend on whether the person has filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Did you know that Florida ranks #16 in the nation for bankruptcy filings. In 2017 the number of personal bankruptcies was approximately 347 out of every 100,000 residents.

What Is The Difference Between Chapter 7 And Chapter 13?

Individuals or couples in Florida, who claim bankruptcy, will elect to file under Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Want to know the difference? Take a look at the descriptions below for more information:

Chapter 7

In exchange for dissolving all past due debts, the trustee of the bankruptcy will liquidate the assets, such as cars, homes, and other property of value in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy proceeding.

The proceeds collected during liquidation will be used to repay debtors that were listed on the bankruptcy filing.

Chapter 13

A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy plan is reserved for people who have the means to pay some of their debts through a restructuring. You will be allowed to keep your valuable assets over a 3- to 5-year time frame.

In order to decide which chapter a person will file, he or she will have to assess their ability to repay using the Bankruptcy Means Test.

What Is A Bankruptcy Means Test?

The ultimate goal of the Bankruptcy Means Test is to determine who is eligible to apply for debt forgiveness through a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. It takes into account your:

  • income and expenses
  • household size and composition
  • debt-to-income ratio

For those who do not qualify for a Chapter 7 filing, they will be able to file for Chapter 13, as described above.

What Are Bankruptcy Exemptions?

The federal bankruptcy exemptions are a list of exclusions by Congress that are available to filers in specific states. These exemptions will determine what you are able to retain throughout and after Chapter 7. In a Chapter 13 situation, the exemptions will determine what amount you will have to pay certain financial institutions in your repayment plan.

Unless otherwise noted, all law references are to Florida Statutes Annotated.

Homestead

222.01, .02, .03, .05; Fla. Const. 10-4 – Real or personal property, including mobile or modular home and condominium, to unlimited value. Property cannot exceed: 1/2 acre in a municipality, or 160 acres elsewhere. Spouse or child of deceased owner may claim exemption. May file homestead declaration. Also, tenancies by the entireties in real property are exempt as to debts of one spouse.

To learn more about Florida’s generous homestead exemption, check out Florida Bankruptcy & the Homestead Exemption.

Personal Property

  • Prepaid hurricane savings accounts, prepaid medical savings account and health savings account deposits, and prepaid college education trust deposits.
  • Motor vehicle up to $1,000; prescribed health aids; federal income tax credits or refunds.
  • Pre-need funeral contract deposits.
  • Any personal property up to $1,000 total, or up to $4,000 if no homestead claimed.

Wages

  • For head of family, 100% of earnings up to $750 a week; applies to either unpaid or paid wages, or wages deposited in a bank account for up to 6 months.
  • Federal government employees’ pension payments that are needed for support and were received up to 3 months prior to the bankruptcy.

Pensions

  • Tax exempt retirement accounts (including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, and defined benefit plans).
  • IRAS and Roth IRAs to $1,283,025.
  • State officers and employees.
  • County officers and employees.
  • Firefighters.
  • Police officers.
  • ERISA – qualified benefits, IRAs and Roth IRAs.
  • Teachers.

Public Benefits

  • Earned income tax credit.
  • Public assistance, reemployment assistance, Veterans’ benefits, and social security.
  • Workers’ compensation.
  • Crime victims’ compensation unless seeking to discharge debt for treatment of crime related injury.

Alimony and Child Support

  • Alimony and child support needed for support.

Insurance

  • Death benefits payable to a specific beneficiary.
  • Annuity contract proceeds excluding lottery winnings; life insurance cash surrender value.
  • Disability or illness benefits.
  • Fraternal benefit society benefits.

Misc.

  • Damages to employees for injuries incurred in hazardous occupations.

Want to know if you can include Student Loans in Bankruptcy or Medical Bills in Bankruptcy? Check out our Bankruptcy FAQ’s section.

Filing Bankruptcy Alone vs. Filing With An Attorney

You are not required by law to hire an attorney to declare relief. People are allowed to represent him or herself as a pro se debtor. You will simply contact the local bankruptcy court and obtain all forms and requirements directly through them. Going it alone is not for the faint of heart.

Filing Bankruptcy without an Attorney

A basic Chapter 7 Bankruptcy that doesn’t have a lot of debtors or assets may be easy to manage on your own.

A basic bankruptcy that may not require an attorney might look like:.

  • Your income is below the state median;
  • You have no property;
  • Your debts will be considered dis-chargeable.

Working With An Attorney

In most cases, it is usually in one’s best interest to work with a bankruptcy lawyer. A bankruptcy attorney is there to represent you and not the creditors.

An attorney is also keenly familiar with exemption laws. In addition, they can come up with creative strategies to keep your assets through practical repayment strategies that are fair to everyone involved.

While you may have the fight and ability to manage a Bankruptcy on your own, it tends to make things a lot easier on an already stressful situation, especially when there is so much at stake.

What Does Bankruptcy Include?

Once you file for bankruptcy in FL, the courts put in place an order called an Automatic Stay. This order will stop debt collection calls, wage garnishments, and additional claims. Keep in mind that payments regarding child support and criminal cases will still need to be made during this time.

In any event, Bankruptcy will be able to include:

  • credit card debt
  • protection from eviction
  • avoidance of foreclosure
  • utility bills
  • medical expenses

Again, unless you are filing a complex Chapter 13 case, you will lose all assets associated with a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy protection. You will, however, be able to prevent any and all collections from occurring as long as they were incurred before the date of filing and discharge.

Final Thoughts And Considerations On Filing For Bankruptcy In Florida

As you can see, there a lot of information associated with successfully filing for bankruptcy and then exiting it unscathed or satisfied. Only a licensed bankruptcy attorney can guide you through this arduous process, particularly when it comes to complex cases. Be sure to hire someone you respect and trust.

Bankruptcy Courts In Florida

United States Courthouse
110 East Park Avenue
Tallahassee,FL 32301
850-521-5001
Florida Northern Bankruptcy Court

Winston E. Arnow Federal Building
100 North Palafox Street
Pensacola,FL 32502
866-639-4615
Florida Northern Bankruptcy Court

Bryan Simpson United States Courthouse
300 North Hogan Street
Jacksonville,FL 32202
904-301-6490
Florida Middle Bankruptcy Court

George C. Young United States Courthouse
400 West Washington Street
Orlando,FL 32801
407-237-8000
Florida Middle Bankruptcy Court

Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse
801 North Florida Avenue
Tampa,FL 33602
813-301-5046
Florida Middle Bankruptcy Court

United States Courthouse and Federal Building
2110 First Street
Fort Myers,FL 33901
239-461-2110
Florida Middle Bankruptcy Court

 

Additional Florida Resources

Foreclosure Help Program
HomeReliefProgram.com
1-877-494-9007

Disability SSDI Benefits
DisabilityApproval.org
1-888-640-7856