In the simplest of terms, bankruptcy is the legal inability of any person or business to pay their debts.
At Jupiter Legal Advocates, we can advise and support you regarding all areas of bankruptcy in the state of Florida.
Because our knowledgeable team knows this complicated law well, we can help you determine if filing bankruptcy is the right option for you.
If you have any questions, please call us at 561 748-8000. We provide our services throughout Palm Beach County.
You are not alone
Please, don’t let the thought of bankruptcy affect your pride or make you feel embarrassed.
Bankruptcy was created in the late 1700’s to help people make a new financial start.
Many people throughout history have used this legal tool. People such as Larry King (Radio/TV Personality), Donald Trump (Entrepreneur) a (Florida resident) filed bankruptcy 3 times. Francis Ford Coppola (Director of the Godfather), Rembrandt (Artist), Mark Twain (American Author), Buffalo Bill (Wild West Showman), Wayne Newton (Singer/Entertainer), Marvin Gaye (Singer), Tom Petty (Singer), Burt Reynolds (Actor) also a (Florida resident), and even our 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant.
There are two primary ways to file a personal bankruptcy in Florida: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
The first and most common way to file for insolvency is called a “Chapter 7,” also known as a “Straight Bankruptcy”. Under a Chapter 7 most all of your debts are wiped out completely, but there are some debts that are NOT dischargeable, such as, alimony, child support, debts relating to alimony, certain taxes, debts arising out of a criminal or fraudulent transaction, and student loans that do not represent an undue hardship.
Exemptions Allowed in Florida
You are allowed to keep homestead property, which is usually your primary residence, and it may sit on a 1/2 acre or less within a city and up to 160 adjacent acres in any municipality in Florida, and as long as you keep paying your mortgage, of course. Remember, there are exceptions to everything, and your situation may be different.
You must live in Florida for at least 730 days (2 years) before filing to use Florida’s exemptions.
If you moved to Florida before the 730 days (2 years) period then your exemptions will be restricted to those of the state where you lived the majority of the 180-day period (6 months) before the 730-day (2 years) period, if you were in between those time periods mentioned above, then the Federal exemptions apply.
If you lived in a Florida home within the last 1215 days (3 years, 4 months) then the equity (value of your home after deduction of all mortgages and equity loans) will be limited to $125,000.00.
Other reasons why your homestead may be limited to $125,000.00 of equity are that you have been convicted of a felony for bankruptcy fraud, a criminal act or intentional act causing serious personal injuries or death to someone within five years prior to filing for insolvency, violation of security law, or, if within the last ten years you made a fraudulent transfer of property or any asset to avoid losing it in bankruptcy; your homestead may be denied.
Personal Property Allowed to Keep in Florida
If you’re filing as an individual and own a home and claim it as your homestead, you will be allowed to keep $1,000.00 of personal property (money in pocket, bank accounts, home furnishings, stocks, electronics, jewelry, clothes, baby/child items, etc.) and $1,000.00 of value in a motor vehicle.
If you do not own a home, and do not claim a homestead, you will be allowed to keep $5,000.00 of personal property. If you file a joint bankruptcy, husband and wife together, and own a home and claim homestead, you will be able to keep $2,000.00 of personal property, and $2,000.00 of motor vehicles.
If no homestead, then you will be allowed to keep an additional $8,000.00 of personal property.
The Means Test in Florida
The new bankruptcy law requires the use of “The Means Test”. This test determines whether you have the ability or the “means” to pay any creditors back. The means test is done in our office and then reviewed by the U.S. Trustee’s Office. They decide if you have the means to pay any of the creditors listed in your bankruptcy.
“The Means Test” applies if you are primarily a consumer debtor. If the bulk of your debts are from a business, then “The Means Test” may not apply.
If you file as an individual, you may be exempt from “The Means Test” if your income for the last six months falls below the median income for 1 person in Palm Beach County.
The median income varies from time to time. It is approximately $39,383.00 per year for 1 person and approximately $49,321.00 for two people. As the number of dependents increase, the income limits increase.
Should your income be above the median standard, we have to determine if, after you make the monthly payments to all of your secured creditor’s such as; an automobile loan, mortgage payments, boat loans, etc., child support, alimony, and/or everyday living expenses, within the Internal Revenue Service limits, that your remaining income is greater than 25% of your debts divided by 60 (which is the number of months in a five year repayment plan), or have an excess sum of $100.00 to $166.00 per month. This of course becomes extremely complex and is very time consuming.
The Means Test is done to ensure that you have the means to pay between $100.00 and $166.00 per month towards your outstanding debt. If you do, then a Chapter 13 will be filed, this plan requires a 3–5-year partial repayment plan, after your plan is completed, the remaining balance of your debts will be wiped out.
Credit Counseling Courses in Florida
Another change of the bankruptcy law is that you are required to undergo mandatory consumer credit counseling which can be done via-internet, via-telephone or in person.
This requires approximately 1 hour of your time and generally costs $35.00, which you pay directly to the service provider. After your bankruptcy case is filed with the court, you will have to undergo an additional credit counseling course within 45 days of your Meeting of Creditors (court hearing), which will take approximately two hours and there will be another fee of $15.00, which you pay directly to the service provider.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Florida
The second and (less common) bankruptcy filed is the Chapter 13. This is a personal re-organization plan for bankruptcy. Under a Chapter 13 you have to pay back a portion of your debts over the next three to five years.
The advantage to this method is that you will be able to keep all of your personal property even if it exceeds the Florida exemption allowance.
If you have no other option but to file a Chapter 13, you will then have a payment plan designed for you to pay a portion of your debts back over the next three to five years and may be as low as 10% of the amount owed. But first the plan must be approved by the trustee, and if it is, you will have to make the monthly payments to the trustee, you cannot miss any payments, or this could cause your bankruptcy to become dismissed.
While this may seem like the way to file bankruptcy, so that you’re able to keep all of your property, there really is no benefit to file under a Chapter 13 unless, you are behind on mortgage payments, car loans, etc., and have the extra income necessary to make the approved payments.
A majority of all cases filed in the Southern District of Florida are Chapter 7 bankruptcies. People who have to file a Chapter 13 usually do it to save their homes from foreclosure.
If this were your case, you would be able to catch up on all of the mortgage arrearages over the full length of your reorganization plan which will stop a mortgage foreclosure. In addition, you may eliminate some second mortgages or liens on your homestead.
Your Credit Rating
Bankruptcy does remain on your credit report up to ten years from the date of filing, but will wipe your existing slate clean, meaning, you will have no outstanding obligations with zero balances on your credit reports.
However, you should understand that a bad credit rating, without filing, will remain on your record for seven years and shows that you have outstanding obligations, with balances.
Hearings for Bankruptcy
Yes, unfortunately, hearings are involved for both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. Under a Chapter 7, there is only one court hearing that you will be required to attend (called a 341 Meeting of Creditors), which is held 30 to 40 days after your case is filed. At that time, your creditors will have a chance to meet and ask you questions.
Usually the creditors never appear and, instead, the trustee will ask you questions for approximately 5-15 minutes regarding how needed to file and questions pertaining to your bankruptcy schedules filed.
Under a Chapter 13 filing, there are two court appearances. The first is the Meeting of Creditors, similar to the Chapter 7 bankruptcy hearing and the second one is a Confirmation Hearing. However, you may not have to appear for your confirmation hearing.
Usually, the attorney representing you attends on your behalf. At the Confirmation Hearing the judge either approves or denies your Chapter 13 reorganization plan.
All Meetings of Creditors and hearings pertaining to bankruptcy are held at the Flagler Waterview Building, located at, 1515 North Flagler Drive, 8th Floor, West Palm Beach, Florida 33415.
Did you know?
- That a Chapter 7 only takes about 3-4 months to receive a discharge as opposed to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which take about 3-5 years.
- For Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 you can keep all exempt assets.
- That if you file a Chapter 7, you must pay the value of non-exempt assets which you want to keep such as a car or house (cars must be paid in full within 15 – 45 days after filing, a non-vehicle can generally be paid for within 90 days). If you file a Chapter 13 you can keep all non-exempt assets but will have 3-5 years to pay for them over the term of the bankruptcy.
- That a Chapter 7 does not allow you to discharge, wipeout or reduce divorce property settlement obligations, but a Chapter 13 will allow you to eliminate divorce property settlement obligations.
- That in a Chapter 7, the mortgages and loans you choose to keep will not be affected and must be paid in full. For a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’re able to reduce or wipe out a mortgage debt or negotiate it down to the value of the property and/or modify mortgage interest and terms.
- That Chapter 13 fees are higher than Chapter 7 bankruptcy fees.
Should you have any questions concerning bankruptcy, do not hesitate to contact us at Jupiter Legal Advocates, 561 748-8000.
In accordance with the new laws, you are required to provide your attorney with the information listed below.
Please be advised that if you do not produce the information within the time frame required by the United States Bankruptcy Court, your case will be dismissed. This dismissal is not a function of your attorney; all dismissals are done by the United States Bankruptcy Court.
- Most recent bills/statements with names, addresses and account numbers of all creditors that will be included in the filing. Such as: medical bills, student loans, unpaid utility bills, phone bills, etc.
- Income Tax Returns for the past three (3) years prior to the filing.
- Past six (6) months of all pay stubs for any and all money received from employment, unemployment, any and all government assistance, alimony, & child support etc.
- Past six (6) months of all checking and savings accounts opened and closed. You may be required to provide the past two (2) years if requested by the U.S. Trustee’s office.
- Any and all credit card statements that will be included in your petition. You may be required to provide the past two (2) years if requested by the U.S. Trustee’s office.
- All three Credit reports from: Equifax, Experian & TransUnion.
- If you own any real estate, such as a home, second home, timeshare, condo, mobile home, cabin or have an interest in anyone else’s property, you are required to provide copies of all HUD statements, deeds, closing statements and mortgage statements showing balance due on all such real property.
- Proof of insurance for any and all real estate property you own. The “Coverage Selections” page of the insurance policy is useful.
- Copies of all titles or registrations to any and all vehicles you own, including mobile homes.
- Proof of insurance for any and all vehicles you own. The “Coverage Selections” page of the insurance policy is useful.
- Any and all documents pertaining to Insurance policies, annuities, pensions, profit sharing plans, (such as 401K, IRA or retirement plans), stocks, bonds, CD’s, interest in future or present estate of decedent or any other interest that you may own or share.
- Copies of any prior bankruptcy documents.
- Copies of any and all lawsuits you are involved in such as, a personal injury case, workers compensation case, wage garnishments, seizure or foreclosure of any property.
- Copies of any and all taxes owed, such as: Income tax, real estate tax, or excise tax.
- Any and all documents pertaining to alimony or child support owed to former spouse.
- Any and all documents pertaining to any transfer of personal property, real property, vehicles, etc., within one year prior to filing.
If you have any questions for us, call Jupiter Legal Advocates at 561 748-8000. We provide our services throughout Palm Beach County.
Cities include, but not limited to, Tequesta, Juno Beach, Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach, South Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, Loxahatchee, Royal Palm Beach and Wellington.