Bankruptcy in Fort Myers, FL
Are you contemplating bankruptcy or hiring a bankruptcy attorney in Fort Myers, Florida? Are you tired of creditors calling for payments you can’t make? Maybe looking for a way to get out of debt and have you exhausted all other options? Then bankruptcy might be the solution you seek. It is a legal option that can erase a portion or all of your debts.
Types of Bankruptcy in Fort Myers, Florida
Bankruptcy is a legal process that helps individuals and businesses get a fresh financial start. It eliminates a portion of or all of their debts or financial liabilities. In Fort Myers, FL to be approved, individuals must prove they have a hardship that prevents them from staying current on their financial obligations. Keep in mind that not all debts qualify. Some liabilities, such as child support arrears, delinquent taxes, alimony, and student loans generally do not qualify for discharge. Consumers who find themselves falling behind in debt can file either Chapter 7, 11 or 13. To determine which option is right for you, you’ll need to assess your goals, assets, and income. You should also consider working with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
Fort Myers bankruptcies are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida. Although there is a branch of the court in Fort Myers, bankruptcy filings must be submitted directly to the clerk’s office in Tampa.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Many people find Chapter 7 to be the right solution for their circumstances because it provides them with the opportunity to start over financially. However, before filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you should thoroughly assess your income and ability to repay what you owe. You should also speak with a bankruptcy attorney in Fort Myers who can help you to decide if a liquidation plan is right for you.
Typically, individuals approved for Chapter 7 lack stable income or have experienced a change in circumstances that has resulted in an inability to manage their debts. Though Chapter 7 erases debts, the tradeoff is you may have to give up certain possessions, such as your home, car or some other assets. However, once you file your petition, an automatic stay goes into effect that requires all collection activity against you like foreclosures and garnishments, to stop temporarily. However, the automatic stay does not prevent all collection attempts. For example, if you owe child support or restitution for a criminal case, you are still liable for those payments.
Before filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fort Myers, you must pass a Means Test. In short, your family’s income must be lower than the median income of Florida families of the same size. When you file a bankruptcy petition in Fort Myers, an automatic stay prevents your creditors from continuing their attempts to collect your debt. However, under Local Bankruptcy Rules, a creditor can request an exemption from the court to continue collecting the debt.
Bankruptcy law also requires that you undergo credit counseling before you file. Fortunately, this can typically be completed online. Conveniently, the Department of Justice maintains a list of approved providers for the Middle District of Florida.
Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
Chapter 11 bankruptcy is more complex than other types of bankruptcy. It is often used by businesses and certain types of people. It allows petitioners to restructure their debts with a reorganization plan, so they are easier to manage over a determined length of time, usually four to 18 months. The main benefit of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that it does not require petitioners to sell off or liquidate their assets to pay what they owe. It does allow debtors to negotiate with their creditors a reorganization plan that enables them to stay current on their debts moving forward.
The Middle District of Florida provides a list of Chapter 11 forms for Fort Myers filers. Some of the requirements include:
- File petition and pay fee of $1,738
- List of creditors
- Summary of property, both exempt and nonexempt
- Statement of Income and Expenses
- Summary of Assets and Liabilities
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a debt restructuring or wage earners plan. In Fort Myers, FL after you file, the courts will assign a trustee to examine your liabilities and assets and ability to pay bills. Unlike other types of bankruptcy, Chapter 13 involves you restructuring your debt with a three to five-year repayment plan. The flexibility of this repayment plan will depend on what property you want to keep and how steady your income is. It may also give you the opportunity to have some or most of your debts discharged.
The filing requirements for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Fort Myers include:
- File petition and pay $313 fee
- List of creditors
- Certificate of credit counseling
- Summary of assets and liabilities
- Schedule of income and expenses
- Chapter 13 plan
The Bankruptcy Process in Fort Myers, Florida
There is never an ideal time to declare bankruptcy. However, if you are unable to pay off what you owe within five years, filing for bankruptcy can help you to lessen the negative impact on your situation and help you get back on track.
In Fort Myers to begin the filing process, gather all of your financial records, including monthly expenses, debts, assets and annual income. This information is crucial to give the courts an accurate picture of your circumstances. Failure to provide all necessary information can result in your petition being denied.
Unlike some states, Florida does not permit filers to choose between the federal and state exemptions. Fortunately, Florida law provides some very generous state exemptions for Fort Myers filers. Some of these include:
- Unlimited equity in your home, subject to some acreage and length of ownership requirements
- Up to $1,000 of equity in a vehicle, amount doubled for jointly filing spouses
- Pensions and retirement benefits
- Wildcard exemption for personal property up to $1,000, increased to $4,000 if homestead exemption is not used
One thing to note, however, is that Florida’s exemptions only apply if you have lived in the state for at least 2 years. If not, you can still file in Florida, but you will have to use your previous state’s exemptions.
At least six months before you file for bankruptcy, eliminate unnecessary spending. Do not run up the balances on your credit accounts. You’ll also need to complete an approved credit counseling course, usually online or over the phone. Credit counseling is necessary to help you learn financial literacy and help you learn better financial habits. Once you complete the course, you’ll receive a certificate of completion to include in your filing. If you don’t have the certificate of completion from the credit counseling course that you took, the courts will reject your bankruptcy petition.
Work With an Experienced Fort Myers, Florida Lawyer
Hiring a local bankruptcy lawyer in Fort Myers during this process can help reduce the costly risks of self-representation in court. An experienced bankruptcy lawyer understands state and federal bankruptcy laws. He or she can help you understand which laws apply to your case, especially which debts that can be discharged or can’t be discharged. An experienced Florida attorney can also offer you guidance to improve the outcome of your case.
Keep in mind that there are debt management alternatives and financial resources that may benefit you more than bankruptcy, such as debt consolidation. Though bankruptcy is an attractive solution, it is best as a last resort. Do you need immediate help? Then one of our experienced lawyers in Fort Myers can guide you through the entire bankruptcy process. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Florida state lines.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!