Making the decision to file for bankruptcy is never an easy one. The steps taken during a bankruptcy case vary depending on the type of person or entity filing for bankruptcy. Once you decide to file for bankruptcy, it is important that you avoid mistakes that could impact your case or jeopardize your debts from being discharged.
Business filers are limited normally to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, unless the business is a sole proprietorship. In this situation, the business may be able to proceed with a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If the filer is an individual, depending on qualifications, he or she may be able to do either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
To qualify for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case in Florida, the debtor needs to pass the means test. The means test takes into account your income, expenses and family size to determine whether you have enough disposable income to repay your debts. If the debtor does not pass the means test, the next option is a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is also known as a repayment or reorganization bankruptcy. In Chapter 13, the debtor works with the bankruptcy trustee on a three-to-five-year-long repayment plan whereby the debtor’s debts are negotiated down and consolidated into one single monthly payment. The debtor will normally get to keep all of his or her assets in this type of bankruptcy.
Many people fear that filing for bankruptcy will result in them losing everything they own. Do not believe this myth. Many Chapter 7 cases are “no-asset” cases, which means that the debtor gives up no possessions due to the allotted bankruptcy exemptions. Florida has one of the most generous homestead exemptions in the country. To use Florida’s 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.
The state also allows the filer to exempt personal property up to $1,000, education savings and health savings, tax credits and refunds, and up to $1,000 in motor vehicle equity if the filers are married and filing jointly. Additionally, Florida allows for wages of the head of family to be exempt for up to $750 weekly or the greater of 75 percent or 30 times the minimum wage. Florida exemptions also cover different types of pensions and retirement funds, as well as annuities and insurance policies.
If a debtor passes the means test and is able to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the next question is whether the filer’s debt is dischargeable. For the most part, bankruptcy involves debt that is unsecured and not connected to collateral, such as medical bills or consumer credit card debt. Other debt, such as child support payments, tax debt and spousal support are not dischargeable. If the filer’s debt is mainly unsecured, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be the better option for him or her to discharge the debt. If the filer’s debt is connected to another asset that the filer wishes to keep, a Chapter 13 filing may be the better option.
It helps to have the assistance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney to guide you through the process. A bankruptcy attorney can review the debtor’s situation, advise him or her on the best route to take with respect to bankruptcy and can ensure that all paperwork is completed correctly to avoid any unnecessary delays.
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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.