Retirement and Bankruptcy: Things to Consider
Deciding to file for personal bankruptcy can be a fraught decision under any circumstances, and especially after retirement. Yet many Floridians who have retired do make the decision to file for bankruptcy, often as a result of unexpected debt or other changes in financial circumstances. According to the Population Reference Bureau, Florida has the second-highest population of adults aged 65 and older in the country, and Florida’s older adult population accounts for more than 21 percent of the total population as of 2020. The US Census Bureau also reports that about 25 percent of all Americans aged 65 and older live in California, Florida, and Texas. In other words, Florida has more retirees it counts among its residents than many other states.
With so many older adults in Florida, it is important to clarify common questions and concerns about retirement and bankruptcy. The experienced West Palm Beach bankruptcy attorneys at our firm can say more about retirement and bankruptcy.
Retirement Accounts and Pensions Are Likely Exempt
Under Florida and federal law, most retirement accounts and pensions are entirely exempt. Accordingly, none of the money in your retirement accounts or your pension benefits can be liquidated if you file for bankruptcy and will not be counted in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case.
Retirement Income Already Paid to You Could Impact Bankruptcy Eligibility
How much money are you receiving as income on a monthly basis from Social Security retirement benefits and from any pensions or private retirement accounts? You should know that, even though retirement benefits held in an account are exempt and will not be counted toward your income for purposes of eligibility (and cannot be liquidated in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case), money you have received as retirement benefits will be considered income for purposes of determining your eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. As a reminder, even as a retiree, you must be able to pass the means test in order to be eligible to file for a liquidation bankruptcy.
You May Not Have Many (or Any) Assets for a Creditor to Take
Depending upon the amount of retirement income you receive monthly, and depending upon what you do with your Social Security retirement benefits, you may not have many — or any — assets that a creditor can take by suing you or attempting to seek a garnishment. In other words, if you do not have anything for a creditor to take, it might not make sense to file for bankruptcy. Yet you should discuss your particular circumstances with a lawyer before you make any assumptions. In general, Social Security benefits and pension benefits are exempt, but there are exceptions.
Contact a West Palm Beach Bankruptcy Lawyer Today
Are you currently retired and considering bankruptcy? Whether you are nearing retirement or have already retired, one of the experienced West Palm Beach bankruptcy lawyers at Kelley, Fulton, Kaplan & Eller can speak with you about consumer bankruptcy and can answer any questions you have. Contact us today to learn more about retirement and bankruptcy in South Florida.