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

How Will Filing For Bankruptcy Affect My Spouse?

Filing for bankruptcy when someone is married can be a joint process, or it can be done by only one spouse proceeding with the case. Ultimately, it depends on the type of debt and the financial situations for both spouses. For example, if one only spouse owes a specific debt or debts, then that spouse may be able to proceed on a bankruptcy alone, especially if the other spouse has good credit and very few other debts. Proceeding with a single bankruptcy case while married can be complicated, and in certain situations, it can adversely affect the non-filing spouse, but not always 

Joint Debts

In any marriage, parties bring in their own, individual debts, and debts are almost always incurred during the marriage, as well. One spouse may choose to take out a loan, not naming the other spouse on the debt, which means only the spouse whose name is on the debt is responsible for what is owed. If that spouse is not able to continue making payments on the debt, he or she can proceed with a bankruptcy to discharge that debt. If the debts listed in that bankruptcy case belong to the filing spouse alone and not the non-filing spouse, discharging the filer’s debts and liabilities should be a straightforward process. It becomes more complicated if any of the debts listed in the bankruptcy case belong to the non-filing spouse. In these situations, these joint debts will normally remain with the non-filing spouse. 

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

Tips to Keep in Mind Before Filing for Bankruptcy in Florida

Many people view bankruptcy as this great unknown and truly do not understand the process before filing. However, it helps to understand what is involved when filing for bankruptcy and what to expect during the process.

What Is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding that basically provides the filer a fresh financial start. While it does involve putting the filer’s financial situation in the hands of the bankruptcy court and bankruptcy trustee, it can give the person a chance to breathe and get back on his or her feet. Bankruptcy will put all collection proceedings and foreclosure cases at a stop through the automatic stay and will also stop creditors from continuing to contact the consumer.

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief

Which Type of Bankruptcy Eliminates the Most Debts?

When it comes to filing for bankruptcy, several different options are available, depending on the filer’s financial situation and types of debt owed. Two of the most common forms of consumer bankruptcy filings are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.

Chapter 7 is a liquidation bankruptcy that wipes out most of your general unsecured debts such as credit cards and medical bills without the need to pay back balances through a repayment plan.

Bankruptcy Law

Can I File for Bankruptcy and Still Keep My Car?

The fear of losing everything is a very real fear for many bankruptcy filers. However, this is one of the most common bankruptcy myths, and can keep individuals who are drowning financially from filing for bankruptcy. One concern many filers have is whether they will be able to keep their mode of transportation after filing for bankruptcy.

The good news is most filers will be able to keep their vehicles after filing for bankruptcy. Florida bankruptcy laws offer generous exemptions which allow individuals to keep various types of property, including their vehicle. Under the Florida Motor Vehicle Exemption, bankruptcy filers can exempt up to $1,000 in motor vehicle equity. This amount can be even more if a married couple is filing for bankruptcy jointly.

Bankruptcy Law

Can Filing for Bankruptcy Save My Home?

When someone is facing the possibility of bankruptcy, the thought of losing his or her home is a very real and frightening one. However, the protections of the bankruptcy automatic stay can help the filer protect his or her home through a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 filing. The key to this protection rests heavily on the type of bankruptcy filing and the filer’s financial situation. The bankruptcy automatic stay also offers filers who are facing a multitude of collection calls relief from their creditors, protect them from lawsuits, wage garnishmentrepossession, 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.

Bankruptcy Law, Debt Relief

More than 50% of Americans Have Raided Their Retirement Savings Early

When someone is facing a difficult financial situation, it can be tempting to pull money from whatever resources are readily available. Many consumers feel they have no choice but to dip into their retirement savings to pay for financial emergencies or unexpected expenses. In fact, according to a recent study published by Magnify Money, more than half of all Americans have withdrawn money from their retirement savings early.

Twenty-three percent of those surveyed stated that they did so to pay off debt. Another 17 percent used this money to put a down payment on a home, while 11 percent used the money to pay for education costs. Nine percent surveyed reported using money from their retirement savings to pay down medical debt.

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

 

Bankruptcy Law

Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. Which option is right for you?

There are two types of bankruptcy available to consumers who are struggling with debt- Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Choosing the right one is critical to success in eliminating your debt. Below is a comparison guide to help you best decide which bankruptcy is right for you.

Chapter 7 is a form of liquidation and it is often considered the most straightforward type of bankruptcy. Consumers are essentially given a financial fresh start, oftentimes within three months of filing.

Contrary to the bankruptcy myths surrounding Chapter 7, it does not mean you will lose your home, car or retirement savings. In most Chapter 7 cases, filers do not have assets above the legal threshold, which is set by state law and therefore they do not have to lose anything- only their debt.  If a person is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida, they can use Florida’s bankruptcy exemptions to protect valuable property.

Chapter 13 restructures your debt into an affordable repayment plan. The debtor’s obligations are combined into one monthly payment to the bankruptcy trustee, which is then distributed to the creditors. Chapter 13 takes into account your income and expenses, the amount of your debt, the types of debt, and even your property value when setting the repayment plan. If you are behind on your mortgage payments, Chapter 13 allows you to get caught up on these payments and save your home from foreclosure.

Chapter 13 plans can last anywhere from three to five years, but most are five-year plans.

If you are struggling to keep up with your Chapter 13 payments, or have recently lost your job or become ill, Chapter 13 may no longer be the right option for you. You can convert a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy at any time if you become eligible. Many of our clients are surprised to discover they never have to go to court or see a judge in order to convert their Chapter 13 filing to a Chapter 7.

If you have any 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.