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Overview of Consumer Bankruptcy Process in Florida – Middle District

by | Jun 16, 2020 | Bankruptcy

A bankruptcy, like many other legal representations, starts with you meeting with a bankruptcy lawyer. At Akin Law, we typically scheduled a free consultation lasting between 30 and 45 minutes. Our office will email you a short information form to fill in with a map to our office. At the meeting you explain your goals and we explain the bankruptcy process and applicable laws. At the end of the meeting, you will receive a fee and cost quote and have the information necessary to make an informed decision.

If you decide to retain our firm, you will be given a series of government authorized and informative documents to read and sign. Next you will be given a retainer agreement to read and ask questions about. At execution you will pay the initial retainer fee, which in a Chapter 7 is one-third to one-half of the total we have agreed upon. You must understand that your case cannot be actually filed with the court until the full amount is paid. We cannot represent you in your Chapter 7 and be a creditor at the same time (i.e. my conflict of interest). Bottom line, the quicker fees and costs are taken care of the quicker the case is filed.

You will then be provided with a detailed bankruptcy questionnaire, in an electronic format, that you can use to collect and organize your bankruptcy information. A lot of your detailed financial information is required and once the questionnaire is completed you simply return it to our office; no appointment is necessary. For a nominal fee we will run a credit report for you in our office. This report is very helpful because it is well organized and up-to-date.

You will then be provided with a list of pre-approved credit counselors. This pre-filing counseling can be done either over the phone or online. This course should take no more than 1-2 hours of your time and upon completion of the pre-filling counseling, the counselor will deliver a Certificate of Completion to our office. Our office will pay for the course and you will reimburse us.

Once you review and approve your bankruptcy petition, you will be asked to sign it under penalty of perjury. Your bankruptcy attorney will then sign attesting to the fact your petition is true and accurate to the best of their knowledge and belief. The petition will then be electronically filed, the filing fee paid, and your case number assigned. The key is having a complete and accurate petition at filing. Accurate information translates into a smooth bankruptcy proceeding.

About a month after the petition is filed, you will attend a meeting of the creditors, also known as the 341 meeting. Here you will be questioned by the Trustee about your case. We will make certain the Trustee has all the requested documents before the hearing date. You may be asked to attend a pre-creditors meeting telephone conference.

If you have more property than the exemption allows, you can either “buy-back” the excess property or surrender it to the Trustee. For a buy-back situation, you will make an offer to buy the excess property at the highest price within some agreed upon period of time. Any Trustee collected funds are then paid-out in a lump-sum to creditors.

After the 341 hearing, a Chapter 7 case will sit for 60 days. During the first 30 days creditors can object to your exemption claims. If an objection is filed then the Trustee will appoint an appraiser. The parties then negotiate with a buy-back agreement or the Trustee taking non-exempt property to sell. Simultaneously, there is a 60-day period where creditors can object to a debt discharge. In a Chapter 7 case, while the 60-day period is running you should take the post counseling course and obtain the Certificate of Completion. This certificate is a requirement for the Chapter 7 discharge to be issued. Again, this cost will be paid by the attorney and reimbursed by you.

If a Chapter 13 plan is filed, 30 days after filing the petition you must start monthly payments which will generally last 5 years (60 months). The Trustee will review your plan and will often ask for a higher payment. Once the Trustee agrees to the plan payment amount and duration of payments, the Trustee will withdraw any objections and the plan is confirmed. Once all plan payments are made you will be granted your discharge.

During a 5-year plan, your situation may change. The debtor and attorney will then decide, if, when, and how the plan can be amended. An amended plan will require approval of the Trustee, the court, and the creditors. This situation is outside the original retainer agreement and will require a new fee agreement.

In summary, most debtors seek bankruptcy relief because of an unplanned illness or loss of job. A bankruptcy helps to reset a debtor’s financial life. A bankruptcy can help you keep your house, your car, and your retirement accounts. A bankruptcy can also provide debt relief and/or restructuring loans. Give our firm a call to schedule a free consultation. We can help stop the credit madness. If creditor inquiries are relentless, let us help you. Call now at 386-271-4740