1. How long do I need to reside in Florida to file a Bankruptcy? 91 Days.
2. How much debt do I need to have before filing a Bankruptcy?
Usually, it makes little sense to file a Bankruptcy unless you have at least $10,000 in unsecured debt.
3. What is the difference between a Chapter 7 and a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is a procedure which takes approximately 6 months and the debts of the person filing are liquidated.
A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is basically a re-organization with some debts being discharged. A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is most often used to stop a Foreclosure and reinstate the Mortgage over a 5 year period.
4. What does a Bankruptcy cost?
The filing fee is $308 and the attorney's fees vary depending upon the details of the case. The first consultation is always free in a Bankruptcy case, and fees can be discussed at that consultation.
5. Bankruptcy Procedure
The normal procedure in a Bankruptcy is to come in the office with a list of all of your assets and liabilities. The attorney will then go over these with you and discuss exactly how a Bankruptcy works, start to finish. Paperwork is prepared and you will come back in a couple of times and sign the paperwork. The Bankruptcy is electronically filed with the Bankruptcy Court. Once filed, the Bankruptcy Court issues an Order that is sent out to all of the creditors. This Order prevents the creditors from taking any further action against you. Approximately 4 weeks after the Bankruptcy is filed, the Court, specifically the Trustee, holds a creditors meeting. The creditors meeting takes approximately 5 minutes. The attorney will be present with you at this meeting. Several months after the creditors meeting the Bankruptcy Court issues an Order of Discharge which goes out to every creditor and discharges your liability for your debts. At that time, your debts are forever terminated. About 3 months later the Court closes the case.
6. What am I allowed to keep in a Bankruptcy?
The state of Florida has a list of exemptions which determine what you are allowed to keep of your assets and the value of those assets. You will discuss with the attorney your assets and liabilities and put forth in the Bankruptcy a plan as to which assets will be kept and which will be surrendered.
ADDITIONAL BANKRUPTCY INFORMATION
Dear Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Client:
This is our Bankruptcy information, not intended to cover every last aspect of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, but the intent being to give you some information concerning a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and some of the do’s and dont’s.
1. At the time you file a Bankruptcy, you own nothing. You are granted exemptions from the Bankruptcy Court.
2. Prior to filing Bankruptcy, for at least 180 days prior to filing, you will need to not use your credit cards. Any credit card use within 180 days of filing a Bankruptcy could be determined by the Bankruptcy Court to be a fraud on the creditor. This means that it could potentially be a situation where you knew you were filing a Bankruptcy and continued to charge items that you knew would be discharged in the Bankruptcy. This is fraud on the creditors. Therefore, please stop using credit cards at this time.
3. One common question that I receive is whether or not every creditor, meaning every credit card or person to whom you have an obligation, needs to be listed in the Bankruptcy. The answer to this is “yes”. All creditors must be listed.
4. As to your house, if you have owned your house for 3 years and it is your permanent residence, it is generally exempt, meaning you can keep the house, even if it has equity. If you do not keep the house, you will generally be able to live in the house for a period of time and if you will discuss this with me, I will talk to you about how long you can stay in the house. No one will ever come to your door as you file a Bankruptcy, until you move out of the house. That will not take place.
5. Once you have retained me as your attorney, you should indicate to all creditors that you have retained an attorney to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy for you and give them my telephone number. They will call my office and at that time my secretary will indicate that you are filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. This will usually stop telephone calls to you.
6. You will be required to attend a creditors meeting approximately 5-6 weeks after the case is filed, which usually lasts for 5 minutes. The creditors meeting is conducted by a local attorney, called the trustee, who handles the processing of the case from the standpoint of the Bankruptcy Court. The trustee’s job is to take a look at the situation and determine whether or not there are assets that are not exempt and gather those assets for distribution to the creditors. At the creditors meeting you will be required to produce a Social Security card or a paycheck stub showing your Social Security number as well as a driver’s license. Please do not come to the meeting without those 2 items as the meeting may not take place if you show up without them. If you do not have a Social Security card, there are several Social Security offices located in Orange and Seminole County and you can usually obtain a card within an hour of walking into one of those offices. At the creditors meeting please dress business casual. This is not a time for questions of the trustee.
7. The normal procedure in preparing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is that you and I have one or more consultations. You will fill out an information sheet and list all of your assets and all of your liabilities (creditors). As to each creditor, I need the name, mailing address, account number, and the approximate balance. I do not need exact numbers but just an approximate balance as to what is owed. If you have a copy of creditor statements then please get those to me and you will not need to prepare a list. Any one who is not listed in your Bankruptcy is not discharged and therefore, you will need to list every creditor and every potential creditor.
8. Credit Report: It may be advantageous to go to www.freecreditreport.com and obtain a copy of your credit report. There may a creditor listed in your credit report that you do not recall. It would be advantageous to print your credit report as we can take the data from the credit report and list every creditor thereon as well as anything you have listed on your information sheet.
9. Exempt Property under Florida Law: You are entitled to retain certain items as exempt property. This includes $1,000 in personal property and $1,000 equity in a vehicle. You are also entitled to retain your house if you have lived there for a substantial period of time, whether there is equity or not. There are some exceptions to retaining the house based upon where the house is and what it is. You will not be able, in the Bankruptcy case, to automatically re-negotiate your mortgage as to the amount, interest rate, or payments. This can be done sometimes, through a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, if the house is significantly past due. Please discuss with me if the mortgage is not current.
10. Re-Affirmation Agreements: Under some circumstances, usually with respect to automobiles, the creditor holding the loan on your automobile may want you to re-affirm the debt, meaning to sign an agreement in which you agree to pay the original debt on the original terms. If you sign such an agreement, you are bound by it, the Bankruptcy Court will offer no protection to you. If you do not sign such agreement, you may be required to return the automobile, although you will have no liability on the loan since you have filed the Bankruptcy.
11. Upon filing the Bankruptcy, you will need to have completed a credit counseling seminar, usually taking a short period of time, just before filing a Bankruptcy. My office will give to you an information list showing where and how you do this.
12. You are also required to produce three months of bank statements and your previous years tax returns. Please get these together.
This is just some of the information that will be required with respect to a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Bankruptcy consultations are always free and therefore upon contacting my office we will set a time for you to come in and discuss your case.
Free initial consultations!
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Charles A. Dehlinger
260 Maitland Ave. Suite 1500
Altamonte Springs, Florida 32701