Bitman, O’Brien and Morat, PLLC, offers a team of expert lawyers dedicated to cost-effective services and practical advice. Each lawyer is committed to your satisfaction and best interests. Our attorneys serve Florida with locations in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale. Contact us today to learn more about your options for filing bankruptcy in Florida.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or straight bankruptcy, is what most people think of when they consider filing for bankruptcy. It is an option for businesses or people who cannot make regular monthly payments toward their debts. It is also an option for businesses that wish to terminate the business.
Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help in a number of ways, such as:
- Eliminating debt
- Stopping most lawsuits
- Preventing property repossession
- Preventing utility services termination, at least temporarily.
- Stopping wage garnishments
- Ending harassment from debt collectors
- Stopping foreclosure proceedings to give extra time to work out a more favorable arrangement for vacating the property. (You will not be able to retain property you cannot make the payments on under this chapter.)
Remember that Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not a cure for your financial troubles. There may be some impact on any debt cosigners, and you cannot discharge debts that occur after you file. Working with an Orlando bankruptcy lawyer helps you understand how bankruptcy law applies to special types of debt. These debts may include:
- Child support
- Court restitution orders
- Fines for crimes
- Most taxes
- Student loans
Chapter 7 bankruptcy can, more or less, help you press reset on your finances. If you discharge your debts, you have the chance to catch up on your bills. In most cases, you are also able to keep your property if you are current on car and home payments. Discharging your other debts may allow you to catch up on your home and car. Hire an Orlando bankruptcy lawyer to guarantee you protect yourself as much as possible.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy offers some protection from liquidating your assets. Compared to other states, Florida law has a fairly liberal interpretation of bankruptcy exemptions. This benefits you in the end as you have more protection to keep your property. Talk to an Orlando bankruptcy lawyer about how to best protect yourself and your assets.
What You Need to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Getting started with an Orlando bankruptcy lawyer may feel daunting. However, if you gather all of your assets, you can set yourself up for a successful filing process. It’s important you have records like:
- Any pleadings from lawsuits
- Bank accounts
- Car payment booklets or statements
- Co-debtor info
- Letters from collection agencies
- Mortgage payment statements or booklets
- Pay stubs
- Pleadings from any lawsuits
- Records of anything sold, donated, pawned, or transferred within the last 12 months
- Tax returns
Note that it’s better to share more than not enough with your Orlando bankruptcy lawyer. This helps you better set yourself up for success. Also, it is helpful for you to be as close to caught up as possible on bills and debts. This can help you achieve the best results.
Before you begin the process of filing for bankruptcy in Florida, you will also need to receive financial counseling. This helps show the court your efforts to improve your finances on your own. Following your court proceedings, you will need to complete a financial literacy course. Your Orlando bankruptcy lawyer can help you understand every step you need to take.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is also called a wage earner’s plan. It enables those people with regular incomes to develop a plan to repay all or part of their debts. Under this chapter, debtors propose a plan to repay by making installments to creditors over three to five years. During this time, the law forbids creditors from starting or continuing collection efforts.
Advantages of choosing chapter 13 include:
- Chapter 13 offers several benefits over liquidation under chapter 7.
- Chapter 13 offers you the chance to save your home if you are in default. By filing under this chapter, you can stop foreclosure proceedings. You also may cure late mortgage payments over time.
- Chapter 13 allows you to reschedule secured debts and extend them over the life of the plan. Doing this may lower the payments.
- Chapter 13 may permit you to restructure debts that are non-dischargeable. (Examples include delinquent taxes or student loans.)
- Chapter 13 also has a special provision that protects third parties who are liable with the debtor on “consumer debts.” This provision may protect co-signers.
- Chapter 13 acts like a consolidation loan under which you make the plan payments to a Chapter 13 trustee. The trustee then makes payments to creditors. You will have no direct contact with creditors while under Chapter 13 protection.
You are eligible for Chapter 13 relief if your unsecured debts are less than $394,725 and secured debts are less than $1,184,200. This is the case even if you are self-employed or operating an unincorporated business.
To be eligible to file you must receive credit counseling from an approved credit counseling agency. This must take place within 180 days before filing. It can take place either in a solo or group briefing.
An Orlando bankruptcy lawyer will guide you every step of the way of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. A Chapter 13 case begins by filing a petition with the bankruptcy court serving the area where you reside. A husband and wife may file a joint petition or individual petitions. Your Orlando bankruptcy lawyer will complete the Official Bankruptcy Forms that make up the petition, statement of financial affairs, and schedules. Therefore, they will need the following information from you:
- A list of all creditors and the amounts and nature of their claims;
- The source, amount, and frequency of your income;
- A list of all your property; and
- A detailed list of your monthly living expenses, i.e., food, clothing, shelter, utilities, taxes, transportation, medicine, etc.
When you file a Chapter 13 petition, an impartial trustee is appointed to oversee the case. The Chapter 13 trustee both evaluates the case and serves as a disbursing agent. The trustee collects payments from you and distributes payments to creditors.
Filing the petition under Chapter 13 “automatically stays” (stops) most collection actions against you or your property. As long as the stay is in effect, creditors generally may not initiate or continue lawsuits. They also may not wage garnishments or even make telephone calls demanding payments. Chapter 13 also contains a special automatic stay provision that protects co-debtors. Unless the bankruptcy court authorizes otherwise, a creditor may not seek to collect a “consumer debt” from any individual who is liable along with you.
You may use a Chapter 13 proceeding to save their home from foreclosure. The automatic stay stops the foreclosure proceeding as soon as you file the Chapter 13 petition. You may then bring the past-due payments current over a reasonable period of time. Nevertheless, you may still lose the home if the mortgage company completes the foreclosure sale under state law before you file the petition. Time is of the essence. You may also lose the home if you fail to make the regular mortgage payments that come due after the Chapter 13 filing. Ask your Orlando bankruptcy lawyer if a Chapter 13 filing is the best option for you.
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
This is most often used to reorganize a business. This allows a company to continue running while repaying creditors and allows the business to retain its assets. However, this is a more complex filing than Chapter 7 bankruptcies. An Orlando bankruptcy lawyer can help.
Our Florida bankruptcy attorneys can help you restructure your business. Our approach focuses on the best interest of the creditors. We work closely with you to ensure we develop the best plan for you. We are committed to helping you clear your debts and set on your path to success.
How to File Bankruptcy Without a Lawyer
Filing bankruptcy is a complex process. Rules and laws frequently change, and it can be difficult to navigate on your own. While you can try to file on your own, we recommend working with an Orlando bankruptcy lawyer.
Working with an Orlando bankruptcy lawyer ensures you get the personal attention you need. A skilled Orlando bankruptcy lawyer from our team can see things you might not be able to. We know the ins and outs of the best way to file and what you need to do. We make sure you have nothing to worry about.
Why to Work With an Orlando Bankruptcy Lawyer
A common misconception about filing bankruptcy is it causes future financial ruin for you. In reality, the opposite often rings true. Hiring an Orlando bankruptcy lawyer helps you stay on track for the best outcome.
Many worry about the effects filing bankruptcy in Florida can have on their credit report. However, for many people, bankruptcy can increase their credit score. An Orlando bankruptcy lawyer may help improve your credit score by discharging your debts. Some people even see their credit score improve by triple digits.
Filing bankruptcy does not prevent you from owning property or taking out loans in the future. While there may be some waiting period, you will be able to enjoy financial control again. In fact, your improved credit score may even help you.
You may be tempted to hire a debt settlement or credit consolidation agency instead. However, you should still hire an Orlando bankruptcy lawyer. There are no laws or rules governing those agencies. They are often scams and you end up losing big in the end.
How to Choose an Orlando Bankruptcy Lawyer
Choosing your Orlando bankruptcy lawyer is an important decision. You are selecting the lawyer who will be your guide as you work your way through severe financial changes. Our team of bankruptcy attorneys in Florida has the expertise you need to get the help you need.
The commitment of every Orlando bankruptcy lawyer on our team is to work for your best interests. We do everything possible to get you the best outcome. Our innovative, forward-thinking approach sets the tone for achieving the results you want.
Each Orlando bankruptcy lawyer on our team takes great pride in their work. In addition to the best legal outcome for you, we want to ensure your totally satisfied. That’s why we emphasize the importance of practical guidance. When you work with Bitman, O’Brien and Morat, PLLC, you have an Orlando bankruptcy lawyer focused on exactly what you need.
When you file for bankruptcy in Florida, we understand the financial stress and pressure you’re under. We provide cost-effective legal services so we can assist you without causing further financial stress. With our practical and streamlined approach, each Orlando bankruptcy lawyer from our team only recommends actions they believe in.
Hiring a Bankruptcy Lawyer in Florida
At Bitman, O’Brien and Morat, PLLC, our bankruptcy attorneys care about your best interest. To learn more or to consult with a qualified and committed Orlando bankruptcy lawyer, please call us at 407-815-3110. We serve you with offices in Florida in Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale.