Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy under Chapter 7 is a straight liquidation proceeding. Under Florida law the debtor, the person who files for bankruptcy, is allowed to keep certain exempt property. People who meet statutory residency requirements may be able to keep their home in addition to other personal property. A trustee who is appointed to the case will take over any non-exempt property. The non-exempt property that has any value will be sold and proceeds will be repaid to the creditors. A typical Chapter 7 case takes on average four months to complete, after which time the debtor receives a discharge of all dischargeable debts. All too often our clients come to us and are unaware of the actual process of filing for bankruptcy protection. We have simplified the steps of a bankruptcy into a few core stages along with what we require of you as part of this process.

Important Information About Bankruptcy Assistance

If you decide to seek bankruptcy relief, you can represent yourself, you can hire an attorney to represent you, or you can get help in some localities from a bankruptcy petition preparer who is not an attorney. The law requires an attorney or bankruptcy petition preparer to give you a written contract specifying what the attorney or bankruptcy petition preparer will do for you and how much it will cost. Ask to see the contract before you hire anyone. The following information helps you understand what must be done in a routine bankruptcy case to help you evaluate how much service you need. Although bankruptcy can be complex, many cases are routine.

  • Before filing a bankruptcy case, either you or your attorney should analyze your eligibility for different forms of debt relief available under the Bankruptcy Code and determine which form of relief is most likely to be beneficial for you. Be sure you understand the relief you can obtain and its limitations. To file a bankruptcy case, documents need to be prepared correctly and filed with the bankruptcy court; these include a Petition, Schedules, a Statement of Financial Affairs, as well as in some cases a Statement of Intention. You will have to pay a filing fee to the bankruptcy court. Once your case starts, you must attend the required first meeting of creditors where you may be questioned by a court official called a “trustee” and/or by your creditors.
  • If you choose to file a chapter 7 case, you may be asked by a creditor to reaffirm a debt. You may want help deciding whether to do so. No creditor is permitted to coerce you into reaffirming your debts.
  • If you choose to file a chapter 13 case you may also want help preparing your chapter 13 plan and also with the confirmation hearing on your plan which will be before a bankruptcy judge.
  • If you select another type of relief under the Bankruptcy Code other than chapter 7 or chapter 13, you will want to find out what should be done from someone familiar with that type of relief.
  • Your bankruptcy case may also involve litigation. You are generally permitted to represent yourself in litigation in bankruptcy court, but only attorneys, not bankruptcy petition preparers, can give you legal advice.
CHAPTER 7 FILING ROADMAP

Pre-Filing

1. Pay attorney’s fees in full, gather all required documents, schedule an appointment for a Questionnaire Review, and write down questions for the attorney. 2. Provide any additional documents requested at the Questionnaire review, take the Credit Counseling Course at Debthelper.com, and appraise your jewelry and vehicles that you plan to keep. Our office will give you a call to schedule an appointment to sign your bankruptcy petition once it is ready. 3. On the date of filing your bankruptcy petition our office will give you a call to get the current balances for all of your bank accounts (personal and business). You will be provided with the case number once your bankruptcy petition is filed.

Post-Filing

4. About a week after your petition is filed, a bankruptcy Trustee and a date for the 341 Meeting of Creditors will be automatically scheduled by the court. The meeting usually will take place in about 30-45 days after filing. You will receive a letter from our firm reminding you about the date, time, and the place of the meeting. Any additional documents required by the Trustee have to be provided to our office fifteen (15) days prior to the meeting with the Trustee. You have to attend the meeting in person and bring your original Social Security card and Driver’s License to show to the Trustee. At the meeting the Trustee will ask you questions about your assets, liabilities, income, expenses and other questions pertaining to your specific case. 5. Please provide our office with additional documents that the Trustee might request after the Meeting of Creditors. The Trustee has 30 days to file an objection to a claim of exemption in your case and arrange an appraisal of your personal property. This appraisal might take some time so please be patient. The court will consider you over-exempt when you want to keep non-exempt assets, or want to keep more property than you are allowed to keep under the applicable Florida or Federal Law. The Trustee will then send us a Stipulation for Repurchase of Assets which is a letter stating how much money, if any, you are over-exempt in your case. The total amount of this overage will have to be repaid over the next 12 months in equal payments or you can repay the whole amount at once. You will have an option to surrender some of the assets if you do not plan to keep them. If you are considered over-exempt, you will also have to surrender a whole or a pro-rated portion of your tax refund to the Trustee. We will notify you as soon as we receive this letter from the Trustee, but it might take some time so please be patient. 6. Discharge!