West Palm Beach Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney
Debt can be overwhelming, and many Florida residents owe so much money that they worry they will never be free of the debts they owe. When you are dealing with a significant amount of debt, an experienced West Palm Beach Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney can help you to determine whether filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is right for you. Filing for bankruptcy can be a very stressful experience, and navigating the Florida means test and bankruptcy law in general can be very complicated. You will need experienced legal counsel on your side, and the dedicated bankruptcy attorneys at Kelley, Fulton & Kaplan can help.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Basics
Florida Chapter 7 bankruptcy is generally the simplest and quickest form of bankruptcy and is available to individuals, married couples, corporations and partnerships.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation bankruptcy. In other words, the filer’s non-exempt assets, if any exist, are sold by the Chapter 7 trustee. On many occasions, these unprotected assets are sold back to the person filing bankruptcy at a negotiated price. The proceeds from the sale of the non-exempt assets are then distributed to creditors.
To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida, the filer (known as the “debtor”) who has primarily “consumer debts” must pass the “means test”, which was instituted with the 2005 changes to the Bankruptcy Code.
In most consumer cases, the filer’s assets are exempt from liquidation by the trustee, which means that these assets are not available to the trustee to liquidate to distribute to creditors.
Filing for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is one of the most common types of bankruptcy, and it’s the type of bankruptcy that most people think about when they are considering filing. Unlike a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy will clear your debts and result in asset liquidation. This means that the court will forgive all of your debts and will take any assets that aren’t exempt.
There are certain debts that usually cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, such as student loans, alimony, child support, and other debts. A Florida bankruptcy attorney at Kelley, Fulton & Kaplan can take a look at your finances and discuss which debts are likely to be discharged through bankruptcy.
The case is begun by filing the official petition, schedules and statement of financial affairs. In these forms, the filer lists all assets, debts, along with some recent financial history. This is the most important and most time consuming part of a bankruptcy filing. In fact, most of the work is completed in a bankruptcy case before it is ever filed.
The schedules are where the filer lists his/her assets and debts. The filer signs these documents under penalty of perjury. It is important that every creditor is listed in the schedules with an accurate mailing address. The filer must list all debts, even if the debt is non dischargeable or if he/she intends to reaffirm or keep the debt.
Assets include real estate, personal property, or possessions, such as vehicles, bank accounts, retirements accounts and even household goods and furnishings, clothing and jewelry. However, many of these assets have exemptions available to protect them from being lost.
The schedules are filed with the bankruptcy clerk in the district in which you live, or have lived for the greater part of the last 180 days.
The automatic stay goes into effect upon filing the petition, creating a legal barrier to collection actions by creditors. The automatic stay means creditors must stop taking any collection activity against you, such as telephone calls, written communication and lawsuits.
The court appoints a trustee and gives notice to all creditors listed in your schedules that you have filed bankruptcy. You will get a copy of that notice at the same time it is sent to creditors.
Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions
What assets are exempt in the state of Florida? Under Chapter 222 of the Florida Statutes and the Florida Constitution, your home and certain other types of property are exempt in a bankruptcy proceeding. Commonly used exemptions include but are not limited to:
Homestead exemption: Florida has a very generous homestead exemption, and you should be able to keep your home during bankruptcy. In our state, as long as your property isn’t any larger than one-half acre within a municipality or any larger than 160 acres outside a municipality, you can exempt any home value. However, in order to take advantage of this generous homestead exemption, you must have owned the property for several years before you can claim the full amount of the homestead exemption. Otherwise, you will only be permitted a certain amount for the homestead exemption.
Personal property exemption: personal property up to $1,000 may be exempt from bankruptcy liquidation, and this can include such items as furniture, clothes, and other belongings.
Motor vehicle exemption: up to $1,000 in equity in your motor vehicle may be exempt during bankruptcy.
Wage exemption: a head of household in Florida can exempt up to $750 each week. Other family earnings may be protected through other means. Certain pensions are also exempt, and an experienced Florida bankruptcy attorney can discuss your options with you.
Other exemptions: a number of other exemptions exist under Florida law, including exemptions for tuition program, educational savings accounts, hurricane savings accounts, and medical savings accounts. One of our attorneys can examine your situation today and discuss your likely exemptions with you.
Contact a West Palm Beach Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney
If you are considering a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will need to have one of our experienced West Palm Beach bankruptcy attorneys on your side. At Kelley, Fulton & Kaplan, we have been assisting Florida residents with bankruptcies for years, and we can evaluate your case today. Contact us to learn more.