Bankruptcy FAQs

Tampa Bankruptcy Attorney

For those looking to file for bankruptcy, a lot is on the line and this may be the last hope, so it is crucial that it works. At the Law Offices of Buddy D. Ford, P.A., a Tampa bankruptcy lawyer can offer a wealth of knowledge in this area of the law, as well as review your financial situation and guide you through the process from beginning to end. The following are questions that you may have regarding bankruptcy. If you have further questions, contact the office to schedule an appointment with a qualified attorney.

Will I lose everything?

A lot of people worry about filing and may even decide not to because they have heard the myth about bankruptcy that you will lose everything you own. Not all cases are the same and determining which assets are liquidated is done on a case-by-case basis. For those filing under Chapter 13, you will likely keep most or all of what you own. For those filing under Chapter 7, you may get to keep many of your belongings. The Bankruptcy Code includes a list of exemptions on the federal level. Within Florida, there are exemptions as well. Your case should be reviewed by a professional at the firm who can better determine what you are likely to experience after filing.

What property is exempt?
Federal exemptions allow you to keep up to a certain amount in items such as jewelry, vehicles, life insurance policies, household items and more. There is also a wild card exemption that allows for an additional amount to be kept in regard to property that is owned. The state of Florida also has its own rules for exemptions, including up to $1,000 of personal property, $1,000 in motor vehicle equity, a wild card exemption of $4,000 and others. Wages can also be included, as well as certain pensions that are listed in the Florida statutes, such as for firefighters, teachers and police officers.

Can anyone file for bankruptcy?

Yes. Anyone is able to file for bankruptcy, though they may not be eligible for all forms. Chapter 7 requires a means test. In general, this will compare the income of a debtor to the average income in the area. If debtors make more than this amount, then they will be found ineligible. That does not prevent them from filing for other forms that do not include a means test.

How can bankruptcy help?

Countless individuals, families and businesses are feeling the effects of financial uncertainty. Many are finding it far from reasonable to keep up with all the bills and are only continuing to fall more and more behind. Bankruptcy is the final option for many and while it can be a more extreme form, it has been the needed solution for countless individuals. It can wipe out debts and allow for a fresh start. It can also make it possible to keep up with payments by altering their terms. For those running a business, it can help them get back on track or find a way to close their business without all of their debts following them.

What is the difference between Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13?
Chapter 7 is the more traditional and well-known form. Through this type, it is more likely that assets will be liquidated and used toward debts. It provides more of a fresh start for those in serious debt. Because it is a more extreme form, the government prefers that it be used for those in significant debt who have little way of getting out of it on their own. They will need to pass a means test to file. Chapter 11 can be filed by anyone, but is more often used by larger businesses that are looking to reorganize. Chapter 13 can also be filed for by anyone and it looks to reorganize as well, as opposed to liquidating. This is for individuals with a source of income. Their debts are combined and they make monthly payments toward them.

How does bankruptcy affect my credit score?

Bankruptcy will initially negatively impact your credit score. This is one of the disadvantages to filing. The bigger picture should be looked at, though. For those who have serious debt they may be unable to get out of, their credit score can be affected anyway and maybe for a longer period of time. Through bankruptcy, you can get back on your feet. A lawyer at the firm works with clients to help them prepare for life after bankruptcy and learn how to not fall back into debt.

Can bankruptcy stop foreclosure?

Yes. This is a great option for those who fear they may be losing their property. After filing, the court orders an automatic stay, which prevents creditors from contacting you and puts the process of foreclosure on hold. Creditors will eventually be able to move forward with the foreclosure so it is important to discuss what you want to get out of filing with an attorney from the firm and to work with that attorney to develop a plan that can help achieve those goals. There are also other options, including a short sale for those looking to be freed from the debt of a mortgage.

What is the homestead exemption?

This law can differ from state to state. Florida is recognized as having a form that is more generous than others. It is covered under Florida Statutes § 222.01 -§ 222.05. Through filing and using the homestead exemption, a debtor may be able to have the full value of a home exempt. To be eligible, the property must be half an acre or less if it is in a municipality or 160 acres if it is elsewhere in the state. It must be the primary home of a permanent resident. To take advantage of this exemption, it is important to understand all the rules that come along with it. Work with a professional who knows the related laws intricately and can make every effort to retain a positive outcome.