Filing for bankruptcy in Florida is a stressful and sometimes confusing process. Regardless of where you live, it’s important to understand your state or province’s regulations and procedure when it comes to filing. Here, we’ll take a look at what to do when filing for bankruptcy in Florida – and how to make the process a little less stressful for everyone involved!
Weigh Your Options Before Filing for Bankruptcy in Florida
Filing bankruptcy is Florida is like filing for bankruptcy anywhere else: it’s a big decision that shouldn’t be made lightly and should be avoided if possible by making prudent financial decisions. Before you commit to filing bankruptcy, be sure that your other options have either been exhausted or are not as beneficial as choosing bankruptcy. Bankruptcy was designed to be a last resort, but that doesn’t mean that choosing it equates to giving up on your financial future. Head into a bankruptcy filing with the intention of fixing things in the future and you’ll see the best results.
Determine Which Type of Bankruptcy Works for You
There are two primary types of bankruptcy available to individuals. These are chapter 7 bankruptcy and chapter 13 bankruptcy. Wondering which types would be the right choice for you? Compare the two here:
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is typically the choice made by those who are looking to completely rid themselves of as much of their outstanding debt as possible. This process is called liquidation and involves a person declaring themselves unable to repay their outstanding debts in any way. The primary drawback of this form of bankruptcy is that property owned by the debtor can be seized in order to be sold to gain funds to repay debts with.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a slower, more gradual form of bankruptcy. Those who choose chapter 13 bankruptcy typically are looking to work through a different kind of debt than those who choose chapter 7. One of the primary differences in the two is that debts such as unpaid taxes can be reduced or eliminated through chapter 13 bankruptcy, and debts such as unpaid child support and unpaid alimony payments can be reorganized to make paying these debts off over the course of a few years more doable for debtors.
The thing to remember about chapter 13 bankruptcy is that it is a reorganization of debt, rather than a liquidation. This means that debt still needs to be repaid, and this typically takes several years. The average length of time from filing to discharge with this type of bankruptcy is three to six years, making it a much longer process than a chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Hire a Lawyer
Anytime you’re heading into something like bankruptcy, you’ll need an attorney. It is certainly possible to file for bankruptcy in Florida without a lawyer, but the prudent choice is always to bring in a professional to help you get a favorable result. After all, wouldn’t you want someone whose job it is to understand bankruptcy laws in your state on your team when filing?
Finding the right lawyer isn’t always an easy process. Not everyone has a family attorney or knows of someone experienced in the field of bankruptcy. If you’re not sure where to start, begin with a legal referral website that can assist you in making a connection with an expert bankruptcy attorney in your area. This will help you hit the ground running with legal help that knows your situation almost as well as you do!
Satisfy State Bankruptcy Requirements
Some parts of the bankruptcy process are different from state to state. The means test and median income used to determine the results will be specific to Florida when filing for bankruptcy in Florida. The assets that can be made exempt under Florida law will also differ from other states somewhat, as each state sets its own specifications for exemptions. Federal exemptions are not applicable in Florida. Some exemptions you may be able to claim include:
- Florida Homestead Exemption
- Florida Personal Property Exemption
- Florida Motor Vehicle Exemption
- Florida Wage Exemptions
- Florida Pension Exemptions
- Florida Public Benefits Exemption
- Florida Lawsuit Exemptions
- Florida Wildcard Exemption
For more information on these and other exemptions, consult your state’s official website or texts.
Gather and Submit Paperwork
Paperwork is a huge part of the bankruptcy process. The first step of this process is completing a voluntary petition for bankruptcy. This tells the court that bankruptcy is something you’re knowingly entering. The form used in Florida cases is the same as that used in most other US states.
Next, you’ll need to formally summarize your assets, income, and expenses. Anyone filing for bankruptcy in Florida must complete the following documentation:
- Schedule A/B: Property
- Schedule C: Any property being claimed as exempt
- Schedule D: Information on creditors with claims secured by owned property
- Schedule E/F: Information on creditors with unsecured claims
- Schedule G: Unexpired leases and executory contracts
- Schedule H: Information about any co-debtors
- Schedule I: Income
- Schedule J: Expenses
Depending on whether you’re filing for chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy, you may also need to gather or fill out additional forms for this step of the process. Consult your legal counsel for more information.
After compiling all of this documentation, you’ll need to complete a statement of your current and past financial affairs. You must also attach documentation of having successfully completed credit and/or financial management counseling. This is required for any type of bankruptcy in the state of Florida.
Ask for Help as Needed
No matter how prepared you are, filing for bankruptcy in Florida or anywhere is a process that can easily confuse debtors. If you’re having trouble understanding forms or paperwork, need assistance with gathering your information properly, or just need support while you navigate the process, reach out to your legal counsel. They’re sure to understand what you’re going through and be able to offer insight and advice to help you keep your head up moving forward. Remember, bankruptcy doesn’t have to be anything more than a bump in the road to a brighter, better financial future!