Bankruptcy Law, Consumer Bankruptcy

When Is Filing for Bankruptcy the Best Option?

Making the decision to file for bankruptcy is never an easy one. Many individuals hold off on filing for fear of what it will do to their credit or worse, fear of the unknown. For many consumers, taking that first step and initiating a bankruptcy case can be the best option for them. The key is deciding when to take that step.

The longer a person stays in debt, struggling to pay bills, defaulting on liabililities, the worse the financial damage will be.  Not to mention the emotional toll it takes.  By not taking action, a person can risk being sued by thier creditors or having their wages garnished. Credit card companies, creditors and even the IRS can take legal action to garnish your wages to pay off outstanding debt.

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

What Happens When You File for Bankruptcy? 

The bankruptcy process is meant to give consumers who are struggling financially a fresh start. However, many consumers hold off due to the fear of filing for bankruptcy, even if it is the best option. Bankruptcy cases have both positive aspects, as well as negative ones, that go along with beginning and successfully finalizing a case. It is important to understand how a bankruptcy case works before moving forward with filing so that the person filing knows what to expect.  

Automatic Stay 

One of the most positive aspects of proceeding with a consumer bankruptcy case is the automatic stay that accompanies the filing. As soon as a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case is initiated, an automatic stay of all collection efforts against the filer is issued. What this means is the consumer’s creditors are temporarily blocked from moving forward on collecting any outstanding debt. This stay also stops wage garnishments, foreclosures, or completion of legal collections cases. The purpose of the automatic stay is to give the consumer a chance to work with the bankruptcy trustee on determining how various debts should be handled. A creditor can file a request to continue collection even though an automatic stay has been issued, but they can only continue if the request is granted.  

Bankruptcy Law

Miami Bankruptcy Attorney Timothy S. Kingcade Obtains Order Allowing Protections for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Client

Bankruptcy Attorney Timothy S. Kingcade of the Miami-based bankruptcy and foreclosure defense law firm of Kingcade Garcia McMaken obtained an Order for his client in a Chapter 13 case (Case No. 20-10135-RAM), limiting the scope of permissible relief in a pending criminal contempt case. The Motion for Contempt seeks relief against Jeffrey Charlow and counsel, for proceeding with a criminal case pending against Kingcade’s client in Broward County, Florida.

The Criminal Contempt Case was initiated by an order entered by Judge Robert W. Lee in a civil case also pending against the client. The court determined continuation of the Criminal Contempt case was not a violation of the automatic stay, but imposed two important limitations protecting our client:  Judge Lee may not sentence our client to jail with an Order that expels the sentence if a fine is paid and payment will necessarily come from the property of the estate.

Bankruptcy Law

Steps for Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Florida

If someone is considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the path that person needs to take may not always be clear. While everyone’s situation differs in some respects, certain steps must be taken when it comes to proceeding with Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Review Your Financial Situation

Before proceeding, it is always recommended that the filer sit down with an experienced bankruptcy attorney and go over what types of debt the person has, as well as what property would be protected by Florida’s bankruptcy exemptions.

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief

How Small Business Owners Can Protect Assets in Bankruptcy

Many business owners worry about what will happen to their companies and their business assets when facing bankruptcy or a lawsuit. It is important for any business owner that he or she creates an asset protection plan for these exact types of situations.

The first step is to develop a debt management plan for the business. Having debt is not always a bad thing. The key is to manage the debt in an intelligent manner to stay out of trouble.  Business loans will usually involve offering business assets as collateral, which means that if the business owner ends up defaulting on the loan, the lender can seize the collateral to pay the debt. Some lenders will require borrowers to sign a personal guarantee if the collateral is not enough to cover the debt.

Bankruptcy Law

How Long Does the Bankruptcy Automatic Stay Remain in Effect?

One of the benefits of filing for bankruptcy is the automatic stay and the protections it offers filers who are facing a multitude of collection calls from their creditors. It can also protect a person from lawsuits, wage garnishment, repossession, and losing valuable property.  As soon as the bankruptcy petition is filed, the automatic stay goes into effect. After this point, creditors and debt collectors are legally barred from attempting to collect on any debt owed by the filer.

The automatic stay will remain in effect throughout the duration of the bankruptcy case from filing to discharge. However, certain factors can affect the automatic stay and how long it remains in effect.

Bankruptcy Law

Impounded Cars Cannot Be Held After Drivers File for Bankruptcy

Drivers in Chicago who are without their vehicles may be able to get their cars back from city impound lots after filing for bankruptcy, according to a new federal appeals court ruling. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the city’s policy of keeping impounded vehicles belonging to bankruptcy filers despite the fact that an automatic stay has been issued by the bankruptcy court is against federal bankruptcy law.

More specifically, the court argued that this policy essentially discourages drivers from filing for bankruptcy and violates the most basic of protections offered by a bankruptcy filing. It is the court’s belief that the city is doing this to generate revenue rather than help protect their constituents.

Eugene Wedoff, a retired bankruptcy judge who represented the debtors, argued that a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case was meant to allow the filer to get back his or her life by putting property in the filer’s hands. By keeping these impounded vehicles away from their owners, they argue the city is violating their rights.

Bankruptcy Law

How Are Assets & Financial Accounts Protected in Bankruptcy?

When filing for bankruptcy, a common concern individuals have is how bankruptcy will affect their assets. If you are filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida, you can use Florida bankruptcy exemptions to protect your property.  In addition, residents are provided unlimited exemptions for homestead, annuities, and the cash surrender value of a life insurance policy.

Florida has one of the most generous homestead exemptions in the country. To use these exemptions, you must have resided in Florida for at least 730 days before filing your bankruptcy petition. To claim the full value of the homestead exemption in Florida, you must have owned the property for at least 1,215 days before the bankruptcy filing.

Many people are misled to believe that bankruptcy can only make problems worse by causing them to lose their home, vehicle or their ability to ever take out credit, again. This could not be further from the truth.

In fact, those filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 can keep almost everything.  Depending on your specific case, Florida bankruptcy laws allow you to keep the following:

  • Homes
  • Cars
  • Retirement accounts
  • Pensions
  • Wages
  • Personal property
  • Savings
  • Veteran’s or Worker’s Comp. Benefits

Type of Bankruptcy Filed

One deciding factor lies in what type of bankruptcy is being filed. Under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the filer turns over assets that are not otherwise protected under Florida’s bankruptcy exemptions to the court where they are liquidated and used to pay off that person’s creditors. Depending on what falls under Florida bankruptcy exemptions, if the filer has a great deal of assets, this bankruptcy may not be ideal. With a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the filer’s assets are not liquidated. Instead, an affordable repayment plan is prepared by the court allowing the consumer to pay down his or her debts over three to five years.

Bank Accounts

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the average filer’s bank accounts are not affected. The exceptions to this, include:

  • When the filer’s bank or credit union account balances exceed the allowed exemption amount;
  • When the filer owes money to the bank or credit union where the funds are deposited;
  • When specific institutions implement policies to freeze the bank accounts.

The protections of the bankruptcy automatic stay, which go into effect immediately upon filing for bankruptcy halt any collection activity, garnishment, and lawsuits against you.

401(k) Accounts

If the filer has money in a 401(k) account through his or her employer, this money is considered safe for the most part. Under Florida bankruptcy law, a filer’s retirement accounts are protected so long as the 401(k) plan is qualified under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Under 11 U.S.C. Section 522; Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.21, ERISA qualified retirement plans are fully exempt, including 401(k)’s, 403(b)’s, profit sharing and money purchase plans. However, make sure the account is ERISA protected before making any assumptions.

Traditional or Roth IRA Plans

If the filer has an IRA, including a Roth IRA, this type of plan is treated differently than a 401(k) that is ERISA protected, meaning these accounts are more vulnerable in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. Further, any funds that are withdrawn from a retirement account are not considered protected in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case and are considered fair game for creditors.

Other Retirement or Pension Benefits

Other financial accounts are protected under Florida bankruptcy law, including public employee retirement benefits, municipal police pensions, and firefighter pensions. Teacher retirement pensions, as well as state and county retirement benefits, are similarly protected under Florida bankruptcy exemptions.

Annuity Income

If the filer receives money through an annuity, the rules are a little different. If the annuity was funded through an ERISA-protected IRA or other qualifying account, the filer should be able to exempt up to $1,362,800 of its value, up until 2022 when it is subject to change. If the annuity is also tied to a condition of illness, disability or length of service, the money from the annuity may also be exempt. Because annuities tend to be a little more complicated, it is recommended you consult with a bankruptcy attorney regarding protecting annuity funds.

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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.

Related Resource: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/florida-bankruptcy-exemptions-property-assets-bankruptcy.html