Filing for Bankruptcy in Florida
Filing for bankruptcy can be overwhelming, and knowing the ins and outs of this process in Florida is challenging. There are multiple forms, tests, debt counseling requirements, exemptions, and court proceedings that may be required in order to move forward with a bankruptcy. Our West Palm Beach bankruptcy attorneys are here to help guide and educate you on the steps to having your debt discharged through a bankruptcy in Florida.
Florida Property Bankruptcy Exemptions
One of the first questions most debtors filing for bankruptcy ask is: “which of my properties will be sold or liquidated?”. In Florida, the property bankruptcy exemptions are generous, especially for homestead property. Those filing for specific bankruptcy chapters may not lose any property at all. To find out what is exempt, the Florida exemption and the federal non-bankruptcy exemption rules should be carefully applied to your assets. The exemptions are based on the type of bankruptcy chapter that is being filed.
In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a trustee will sell any non-exempt property to pay back creditors. Alternatively, in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it is possible that all property can be kept. However, the debtors must pay to creditors the value of non-exempt property throughout the three to five year repayment plan. Common Florida property exemptions include: the Homestead Exemption, Motor Vehicle Exemption, and Wildcard Exemption.
Florida Homestead Exemption: Residential home equity can be protected for a property that is less than half an acre in a city or municipality or 160 acres outside of a municipality.
Florida Motor Vehicle Exemption: Up to $1,000 of one vehicle can be protected if this exemption is applicable.
Florida Wildcard Exemption: Those who decided not to apply or cannot apply for the homestead exemption have the ability to protect up to $4,000 of other property that they choose.
To note, spouses that are filing together can double the amount that these exclusions allow for—excluding the homestead exemption.
Florida Means Tests and Credit Counseling
Our West Palm Beach bankruptcy attorneys suggest that debtors visit the US Trustee website to educate themselves on the “means test” stipulations and list of bankruptcy education providers. The means test applies only to Chapter 7 bankruptcy debtors and requires that they meet specific income qualifications by performing an income/expenses evaluation. If a debtor’s family income is less than the median income of Florida, he/she will most likely pass the means test and can then file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Our bankruptcy attorneys are experts when it comes to helping our clients perform their means test properly, so that they can petition for bankruptcy. We can help debtors that may not typically meet the means test standards by subtracting certain standard expenses, and by certain other factors that may be present such as loss of employment. The assistance of a great bankruptcy attorney is crucial for navigating the means test.
When deciding to file for bankruptcy, individuals are required to take two finance education courses, one previous to submitting the bankruptcy application (the beginning) and the other before receiving a debt discharge (towards the end). There are specific, approved bankruptcy education providers for each Florida district listed under the “Credit Counseling and Debtor Education” tab on the U.S. Trustee website.
Three areas are responsible for the majority of bankruptcy costs: bankruptcy forms, paperwork filing fees and waivers, and lawyer fees. Prior to becoming eligible for the discharging of any debts, all financial records must be disclosed on the legal forms, including income, expenses, property assets, debt, and any property transactions. These forms have no charge; however, the next step is to file the petition in the bankruptcy court, which will incur a filing fee.
The filing of the bankruptcy petition paperwork requires payment before continuing with the bankruptcy filing process. As of September 1, 2018, The Southern District of Florida had the following costs associated with petitions:
- Chapter 7 Petition Filing Fee: $335
- Chapter 11 Petition Filing Fee: $1,717
- Chapter 12 Petition Filing Fee: $275
- Chapter 13 Petition Filing Fee: $310
Furthermore, there is the cost of hiring legal help throughout a debtor’s bankruptcy case. There are multiple benefits to seeking legal counsel, such as the planning, preparation, negotiation, modification, and application of any financial plans once the debt is dismissed. In summary, one of our West Palm Beach bankruptcy attorneys will ensure that a bankruptcy case is executed as smoothly and efficiently as possible, allowing the debtor to begin their debt-free life. Contact Kelley, Fulton, & Kaplan today for a free consultation.