Miami Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney
Deciding to file for bankruptcy is very difficult. Most people who end up filing for bankruptcy do so as a “last resort,” after other methods of attempting to resolve their debt have failed. Bankruptcy is complex. It is not simply declaring to a judge you have no money.
In 2005, the federal government passed new bankruptcy laws that continue to cause confusion for both debtors and some attorneys. Failing to understand these laws can not only result in the dismissal of your bankruptcy case; they can result in the seizure or forfeiture of assets and possessions that you may otherwise have been able to keep. Contact our Miami Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney.
Debtors looking for relief under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code almost always need the assistance of a knowledgeable Miami Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer like Julia Kefalinos. Julia Kefalinos has been practicing for many years, representing debtors seeking relief under the Bankruptcy Code. She has the experience necessary to protect your assets and represent your interests in front of the bankruptcy court and U.S. Trustee. She will meet with you and explain the bankruptcy process so that you know what to expect every step of the way. She will be right there with you, providing personalized attention, every step of the way.
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Basics
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is sometimes referred to as a “straight” or “liquidation” bankruptcy and is the type of bankruptcy most people envision when they think about bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor files a petition with the court asking that the person’s legal obligations for paying his or her debts be wiped out, or “discharged.” In return, the debtor usually gives up property that is not “exempt,” or protected by law. Julia Kefalinos will counsel you on how to protect property that can be protected under bankruptcy law.
Before filing for Chapter 7, debtors must first complete a “means test” designed to show the debtor’s income level and disposable income relative to other people in Florida. This test is complex, and if not completed correctly the debtor may find that he or she cannot file for Chapter 7. If a debtor fails the means test, he or she may not file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy but may be able to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
“Good Faith”/“Abuse” Test
A second test a Chapter 7 filer must pass is the “good faith” or “abuse” test. The U.S. Trustee, or any creditor, may request that the bankruptcy court dismiss your Chapter 7 petition if it appears that you filed bankruptcy in order to abuse the system. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can assist you in preparing your petition and advising you on behaviors that may trigger this test.
Exempt Property Under Florida Law
Like most states, Florida has created certain “exemptions” that Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers are to use. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, these exemptions allow filers to keep some or all of their property. A person is allowed to use Florida’s exemptions so long as that person was domiciled in Florida for at least 730 days prior to filing for bankruptcy. If a filer cannot meet this requirement, he or she may have to use the exemption laws of the state they lived in the most during the previous two years.
The following property is generally exempt in Florida and would not need to be surrendered in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy:
Homestead exemption: This allows a filer to exempt the value of his or her primary residence, so long as the filer has owned the property for at least 1,215 days prior to filing for bankruptcy;
Wages exemption: The head of a family’s wages are exempt up to $750 per week. This covers both paid and unpaid wages that have been deposited in a bank account within the last six months. The wages of someone other than the head of household may also be exempt, but to a lesser extent.
Personal property exemption: This exemption allows a single filer to keep up to $1,000 worth of personal property, which includes furniture, art, and electronics. If spouses file for bankruptcy together, this exemption increases to $2,000. If a filer chooses not to claim the homestead exemption, he or she may exempt up to $4,000 of personal property.
Savings accounts exemptions: In general, education savings, hurricane savings, prepaid medical savings and health savings accounts are exempt.
Pensions exemptions: ERISA-qualified retirement plans (such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit sharing plans, and SIMPLE IRAs are completely exempt, as are benefits paid under the Florida Retirement System, State and County officers and employees retirement system, firefighter pensions, municipal police pensions, and teachers’ retirement benefits. Up to $1,171,650 from IRAs and Roth IRAs are exempt.
Public benefits exemptions: Unemployment benefits / reemployment assistance, local public assistance benefits, veterans benefits, and social security benefits are exempt. In addition, federal government employees’ pension payments that are necessary for the support of the filer and that were received three months prior to filing for bankruptcy are exempt.
Alimony and child support exemptions: Alimony and child support that is reasonably necessary for the support of the filer and any of the filer’s dependents are exempt.
Insurance exemptions: The proceeds of a life insurance policy made payable to a specific beneficiary are exempt, as is the cash surrender value of a life insurance policy and the proceeds of an annuity contract. Disability income benefits and fraternal society benefits are also exempt.
Miscellaneous exemptions: Workers’ compensation benefits and crime victims’ compensation benefits are exempt. Monetary damages paid to an employee for an injury or death that occurred while employed in a hazardous occupation are exempt.
This is meant to be a brief overview of the type of property that is generally exempt and does not have to be surrendered in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. There are important qualifications and exceptions to these general rules; a skilled Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney can discuss these with you and inform you if any apply to your specific case.
Julia Kefalinos – Successful Miami Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorney
If you are considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the time to speak with an experienced Miami Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney is now. Julia Kefalinos will explain the bankruptcy process to you, answer questions you may have, and help you prepare your petition. If you have been threatened with repossession or foreclosure, she may be able to help you keep your property. She can also stop creditors from harassing you. Regardless of your particular situation, contact Julia Kefalinos for a consultation and personalized service.