R. Jason de Groot, P.A.
Attorney at Law
335 Debary Avenue
Debary, FL 32713
Serving Deltona, Orange City, Debary, Deland, Osteen, Sanford, Lake Mary, Lake Helen and many more cities.
If you are an individual or a family and your expenses exceed your income, you have the ability to file either a Chapter 7, known as a “liquidating estate”, or a Chapter 13, known as a “reorganization estate.”
In both case types a Trustee is appointed to oversee your case. In a Chapter 7, the Trustee’s job is to find any assets you have which are not exempt and sell them. In a Chapter 13, the Trustee’s job is mainly to make sure you follow a plan that you have made to pay your creditors a percentage of what you owe. The goal in both types of bankruptcy cases is to get you out of debt.
When you file a bankruptcy, a Federal law comes into play which basically prevents your creditors from contacting you and trying to get money from you. They cannot file suit against you or proceed with a suit that has already been filed, without approval from the Bankruptcy Judge in your case. In the last few years, many people have found themselves in foreclosure. One way to stop a foreclosure sale is to file bankruptcy. This brings the Federal automatic stay into effect, and a sale of your home cannot take place unless and until the bankruptcy Court says so.
Changes in federal bankruptcy law which came into effect in October of 2005, have made it a bit harder to file bankruptcy for those people above a certain income level, depending upon the median income of the state that the debtor resides in. In Florida, for instance, a single wage earner as of May 1, 2016 can make up to a little over $43,000 yearly and still file a Chapter 7. For a family of 4, the income can be just under $67,000.00. Indeed, for a vast majority of people, the affect of the new laws will require them to get a certificate from a consumer credit counseling agency that they have taken a course, before they file , and a personal financial management course, after filing.
In Florida, homestead property is what I call sacred. No one can force a sale of your home except the mortgage company. A creditor who has a judgment against you obtains what is known as a charging lien on any property you own. The Constitution of Florida protects your home plus $1,000 of personal property, $2,000 if you are married. In addition, the statutes in Florida protect any retirement funds you may have, annuity contracts, any pre-paid college funds, and up to $1,000.00 in a single motor vehicle.
Don’t think that you can do it yourself, or that a petition preparer knows as much about bankruptcy as an attorney. Most bankruptcy lawyers give free consultations nowadays. Ask questions and get advice on other alternatives. Besides getting competent legal advice from an attorney, make sure that the attorney you hire will attend the creditors meeting with you. These days many bankruptcy attorneys get others to cover meetings for them. Since this is an important, mandatory, and very personal matter, it will put you more at ease if the attorney you hire will attend the creditors meeting with you. All too often I have encountered bedraggled clients at creditors meetings, asking me if I am covering for another attorney. They don’t already know that the meeting will take only about three minutes, and they are upset, afraid and confused because they are supposed to meet someone who they do not know, and they don’t know what to expect. Hire an attorney who will give your case the personal attention you deserve.
Get the most recent statements from each creditor, copies of the deed to real estate and vehicle titles, pay stubs for at least 60 days, income tax returns for the last 3 years, bank statements, statements from 401k, pension, or other retirement funds. You also need a certificate from an approved consumer credit counseling agency. Organize everything in one place. Have a good idea of what your income has been for the last five years, and what your expenses have been, before you see an attorney.
Creditors can come after you for purchases made on credit cards just prior to filing bankruptcy, under certain circumstances. So, it is important to stop using credit cards at least a few months before filing.
You cannot pick and choose which debts you are going to go bankrupt on. On the other hand, you can choose to reaffirm a debt and most people want to reaffirm mortgages and car loans. You must list every creditor you owe money to, even the family member who loaned you money. In addition, you have to list everything you own, with fair market values. Don’t put an outrageous price on something, just list what you would be willing to sell it for, garage sale values are probably best.
You want to stay in close contact with your attorney’s office after you have given them the questionnaire answers. It is very important to make sure that you don’t have to pay some monthly bills twice. For instance, if you have a number of checks that have not cleared your bank account, the money in the account at the time you file can be claimed by the trustee. You do not want to have to pay your utilities twice in that month, or your mortgage or car loan. So, you need to make sure that your bank account has a close to zero balance on the day your Chapter 7 is filed.
The hiring of an attorney is an important decision which should not be based solely upon advertising. Before you decide, review my qualifications and experience