Bankruptcy Law, Consumer Bankruptcy

The Three Most Common Fears People Have When Filing for Bankruptcy

The fear of losing everything is a very real concern for those contemplating bankruptcy. However, this is one of the most common bankruptcy myths, and can keep individuals who are drowning in debt from obtaining a fresh financial start.

To make the bankruptcy process a little easier to understand, we have dispelled the top three fears people have when filing for bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy Law

Understanding the Difference Between Exempt and Non-Exempt Property in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Before filing for bankruptcy, many people fear losing their property during the process. Federal bankruptcy laws, as well as Florida bankruptcy laws, allow for certain property to be protected under what are known as bankruptcy exemptions. However, not all property is protected, and it is important for filers to be aware of the difference between exempt and non-exempt property in a bankruptcy case.  

When filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the filer should expect for a significant portion of his or her property to be turned over to the court as part of the “bankruptcy estate.” The bankruptcy trustee will sell this non-exempt property to pay off the debtor’s creditors before a bankruptcy discharge is granted. 

Bankruptcy Law, Consumer Bankruptcy

Steps to File for Bankruptcy in 2021

Bankruptcy is an important tool, that allows consumers to obtain a fresh financial start. For many, the concept of bankruptcy is unfamiliar, and understanding the steps needed to file for bankruptcy is important in fully understanding the process.  

Choosing a Chapter 

The first step is determining which type of bankruptcy to pursue. Bankruptcy is not a one-size-fits-all type of situation. Choosing the right type of bankruptcy hinges a great deal on the individual’s specific circumstances. The most common two categories used by consumers are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. For filers who fall under a certain level of income and can pass the mean test, meaning they earn less than Florida’s median income, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the best selection for them.  Alternatively, if a consumer earns too much to qualify for Chapter 7, a Chapter 13 reorganization bankruptcy may be the best avenue for him or her.  

Bankruptcy Law, Consumer Bankruptcy

Will Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Prevent Vehicle Repossession?

When someone is behind on his or her car payments, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case may allow him or her to catch up on these missed car payments, saving the vehicle from repossession. The ability to do this depends on how far behind the borrower is on his or her payments and whether the loan is already in default.   

While a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case will not permanently prevent the person’s vehicle from ever being repossessed, it can provide the borrower a chance to catch up on missed payments or negotiate with the lender before the loan goes into default.  

Bankruptcy Law, Consumer Bankruptcy

The Cost of Filing Bankruptcy in 2021

Filing for bankruptcy comes with its own set of costs. It may seem counterintuitive that a person who is having difficulty paying his or her bills can pay extra costs to receive relief from his or her financial obligations. However, just because someone is not able to pay his or her bills should not prevent them from hiring an attorney to file their bankruptcy case. While “do it yourself” projects may be a good idea around the house, there are reasons to let a professional handle your bankruptcy filing.

Bankruptcy Law

Knowing When to File for Bankruptcy

Making the decision to file for bankruptcy is never an easy one. Many times, it can be difficult to know when the time is right or when it is better to wait.  

A bankruptcy case allows a consumer to receive a much-needed financial fresh start by discharging his or her outstanding consumer debts. The types of debts that are discharged in a bankruptcy case include credit card debt, mortgages, car loans, medical debt, and other unsecured loans.  

Bankruptcy Law

What is a ‘No Asset’ Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case?

In a no-asset Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the person filing for bankruptcy keeps all of their property because it falls within the exemptions provided under federal law or the law in their state.

With a Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy, a filer surrenders their assets to the bankruptcy estate, which uses them to pay off creditors. But in reality, this is only true of non-exempt property. Many of our cases, are in fact, ‘no asset’ cases. Bankruptcy law recognizes that filers need to retain some property so they can survive the process with something on which to build a future after bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy Law

The Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling Requirement and What Filers Need to Know

All bankruptcy filers are required to take and complete two educational courses before receiving a final bankruptcy discharge. These courses are required for both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 filers. It is important that individuals considering bankruptcy be aware of these requirements for their cases to be successful.  

At the start of a bankruptcy case, the individual filing must meet certain requirements. The filer must disclose his or her complete financial picture by submitting required bankruptcy financial declarations. He or she must also pay a filing fee, request a fee waiver, or request an installment payment for the fee. Lastly, the individual must submit proof that he or she received credit counseling from an agency approved by the U.S. Trustee’s office. This proof of completion must show that the course was taken within 180 days prior to filing.

Bankruptcy Law

Which Type of Bankruptcy Should I File to Keep My Home?

One of the biggest fears people have when filing for bankruptcy is losing their home, car, and other important assets. However, with Florida bankruptcy exemptions and depending on the type of bankruptcy being filed, it is possible for consumers to keep their home and other property. It ultimately depends on the filer’s financial circumstances.  

Protecting Home Equity  

How much equity the filer has in his or her home plays a big part in whether he or she can keep it Equity plays an important part in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies. The equity a person has in his or her home is protected through the state’s homestead exemption, and fortunately for Florida filers, the state’s homestead exemption is quite generous.  

Bankruptcy Law, Business Bankruptcy

The Impact the Coronavirus has had on Bankruptcy Filings in Miami Beach

The economic impact caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been substantial throughout the country, and Miami Beach is not excluded. Countless businesses have been forced to close temporarily and many even permanently. While technically the number of bankruptcies were down at the end of 2020 nationwide, financial experts fear that the number of bankruptcy filings will increase over the next several years.  

While the number of consumer bankruptcies were down nationwide, the number of Chapter 11 business bankruptcies saw an increase of 18.7 percent when compared to 2019. This form of bankruptcy is normally used by businesses that hope to stay in operation through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process that allows them to renegotiate their debts. Several larger businesses, including Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney filed for Chapter 11 in 2020.  

Specifically, in Florida, a total of 37,776 bankruptcies were filed in 2020, which is 19.26 percent lower than the 46,786 filed in 2019. Of all the bankruptcy cases filed in 2020, businesses accounted for four percent of these cases. This number may seem small, but business bankruptcies tend to have a significant effect far past the bankruptcy case alone, including the effect these closures and filings have on the individual employees who lost their job as a result.  

Many times, a ripple effect can be seen on other businesses after one or more close.  

According to figures from the U.S. Courts Administrative Office, a total of 7,430 bankruptcies were filed in Miami-Dade County in 2020. This figure is slightly less than the 8,705 filed in 2019.  

While consumer bankruptcies were down in Miami-Dade County, the number of business bankruptcies saw a slight increase. It is reported that 322 Miami area business bankruptcies were filed in 2020, as compared to 215 filed in 2019. Of these cases filed in 2020, 188 of them were filed under Chapter 7, commonly referred to as a liquidation bankruptcy. Only 129 Chapter 7 business cases were filed in 2019.  

Miami-Dade County did see an increase in the number of Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed in 2020. Approximately 120 were filed in 2020, as compared to the 62 filed in 2019.  

Individual consumer bankruptcies in Miami-Dade County did not see the same increase, however. According to court filings, a total of 7,108 non-business consumer bankruptcy cases were filed in 2020, as compared to the 8,490 filed in 2019. Of these cases, 4,841 were Chapter 7 filings and 2,260 were Chapter 13 filings. In comparison, 5,067 Chapter 7 cases were filed while 3,414 Chapter 13 cases were filed in 2019.  

Despite the decrease between 2019 and 2020, financial experts predict these numbers will continue to increase through 2021 and beyond. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, more and more businesses and individuals will continue to feel the economic impact of this crisis.  

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If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.