At Wood, Atter & Wolf, we offer the following:
- Free Office Consultation with a Bankruptcy Attorney to review your rights and legal options;
- Legal Representation through a Bankruptcy Attorney on personal bankruptcy matters including Chapters 7, 11, and 13;
- Legal Representation through a Bankruptcy Attorney on business bankruptcy matters including Chapter 7 and Chapter 11;
- Periodic Payment Plans that take into consideration your budget and means to pay attorney fees;
- Flexible Appointment Times to fit your schedule including appointments in early morning, evening, weekend, and lunch periods.
- Availability and Access to a Bankruptcy Attorney at two convenient offices (Downtown Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra Beach); and
- Additional Availability and Access to a Bankruptcy Attorney via telephone, e-mail, and text message.
At Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A., you will receive a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney.
During the free office consultation, we will help you understand how bankruptcy works from the initial meeting through the final order by the bankruptcy court.
There will no obligation to hire the firm after the initial free consultation. . If you are ready to proceed with bankruptcy and hire our firm, it will be our honor to represent you and enforce your rights as a consumer / debtor against credit card companies, banks, and other creditors. At Wood, Atter & Wolf, we are On Your Side – At Your Side.
The idea of filing for Bankruptcy is unpleasant: it's scary; humbling; embarrassing. We understand. But if your debt has become insurmountable and nothing else has worked, Bankruptcy may be your best solution. And it doesn't mean you're a "deadbeat."
Creditors, such as credit card companies, run sophisticated campaigns, bombarding consumers with introductory 0% interest rate offers just to ensnare consumers into a lifetime of endless debt, fed by a merry–go–round of exorbitant interest rates and unfair "fees" that make the consumer virtually an indentured servant. Ever wonder why these introductory offers are made to 18 year old students and other people without a job?
So what do you do now? You cannot afford to pay the debt. You are barely making payments on things like your house and your car, which you need to survive. Your disposable income is being wasted on interest payments and late fees. Fortunately, the law recognizes that people with nowhere else to go need a fresh start. That "fresh start" is Bankruptcy.
At Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A. we understand how hard it is to make this decision. That is why we do not take it lightly. If you are in serious financial debt, you need an attorney who knows the laws and can apply them properly to your particular situation. Bankruptcy is not always the solution. We can help you take a look at your financial situation and determine if Bankruptcy is the right choice for you.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Bankruptcy in Florida
Why was Bankruptcy created?
Bankruptcy was created to help you discharge outstanding debt that you will otherwise not be able to pay off in the foreseeable future. It is a way of giving people a fresh start when no other solution will accomplish the same result.Back to top
What law governs Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy is governed by Federal law and all cases are filed in the Federal Court.Back to top
What will Bankruptcy do for me?
- Bankruptcy discharges your legal obligation to pay most of your debts.
- In some cases you can use a Bankruptcy to prevent a foreclosure or modify an existing mortgage that you are having trouble paying.
- Help prevent the repossession of a vehicle or other property and possibly force the creditor to return a repossessed vehicle.
- Stop collection actions, lawsuits on a debt, wage garnishment, and other legal actions against the debtor.
- Help you challenge debtors who may have violated collection laws or fraudulently tried to collect more money from you than you may owe.
What are the limitations of Bankruptcy?
- Some debts cannot be discharged, such as child support, alimony, most student loans, criminal fines, and most taxes.
- It cannot eliminate rights of secured creditors such as banks who may have a mortgage on your home or loans on your vehicle.
- You cannot discharge debts that accrue after the Bankruptcy is filed
- Any loan debt that you discharge against you will not be discharged against a cosignor who was not joined in the Bankruptcy.
Types of Bankruptcy
Otherwise known as a "Straight Bankruptcy" or "Liquidation". In a Ch. 7 Bankruptcy, the debtor can discharge (eliminate the legal obligation to repay) unsecured debts. You may be able to keep valuable assets, as there are some exemptions that may be available to you. But any property that does not meet one of these exemptions may be sold to pay some of your debt. Fortunately, Florida has a fairly generous number of exemptions which may preserve some of your property.
Sometimes called "Reorganization," Chapter 11 Bankruptcy is mainly used by business to maintain control of operations while they are unable to pay their creditors. In some cases, Chapter 11 may be used by individuals, as well.
Similar to Chapter 13, however, Chapter 12 Bankruptcy can only be used by Farmers and Fishermen.
Chapter 13 permits an individual a "personal reorganization." A debtor who is currently receiving an income can discharge a portion of debts, then pay the remainder in accordance with a Payment Plan, typically over a 3–5 year period. Chapter 13 is often used to help debtors restructure a home loan or car loan and still maintain possession of the home or car.
Most individuals or joint–debtors will file for a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.Back to top
What does a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy accomplish?
A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is used to discharge all of your unsecured debt. If you have secured debt (for example, a house loan secured by a mortgage on the house or a car loan secured by a car) you can discharge that as well, but only if you surrender the collateral (i.e., the house or the car). If you have property that does not fall within one of the exemptions allowed under law, it may be sold by the Trustee to pay some of your debt back to creditors.
If you have property such as a house or a car that is subject to a loan, you may want to consider a Chapter 13 over a Chapter 7. This is because the lien holder (i.e., the bank) has priority over the collateral and may repossess the property to satisfy the debt, even though there are exemptions you can use. Sometimes you can "reaffirm" the debt and keep the property. But (and this is a big "but") you must still make the loan payments. If you don't, you may be subject to a deficiency judgment by the creditor and be personally liable for the remaining debt in the future.
The new Bankruptcy laws changed some of the aspects of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. For example, if your income is greater than the median income for your state, you will have to pass a "means test" to be eligible to file a Chapter 7. The qualifying test takes a detailed account of your income and expenses and determines if there is any money left over to pay creditors. If you fail this "means test," you do not qualify for a Chapter 7, but you can utilize a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.Back to top
What can a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy accomplish?
Chapter 13 will permit you to keep some property that you would have to surrender under Chapter 7. In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, you will file a Payment Plan with the Court to show how you will pay a portion of your debt off over a period of 3–5 years. In some cases, if you want to keep your home or vehicle, you will have to make the same payments. However, you may be able to "cram down" the loan amount on your home or vehicle to get it closer to their actual value. This will help decrease the amount of money that will be required to repay to the creditors. In some cases the court may be able to lengthen the term of your home loan, reduce the mortgage balance, and cut interest rates as well. The most important thing to remember about a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is that it allows you to keep your valuable property.Back to top
What property will I be able to keep?
In a Chapter 7, you can keep all of the property that the law says is "exempt." Exemptions vary by state and are often a combination of state constitutional law, statutory law, and federal law. In Florida, there are a number of exemptions available to debtors that allow you to keep valuable property. Certain types of income, such as pension plans and individual retirement accounts, are exempt as well. There are too many exemptions to list here. A Florida Bankruptcy Attorney can help you understand the exemptions that are available to you.Back to top
What do I need to do before filing for Bankruptcy?
All debtors must complete a pre– Bankruptcy credit counseling class that is approved by the Court, within 180 days of filing the Bankruptcy Petition. Proof of completion must be submitted to the Court. A number of agencies are available to debtors that conduct this type of counseling, and they offer the option of taking the class online, in person, or over the phone. This generally costs between $30 and $50, but the law requires the approved agencies to offer this counseling, regardless of the debtor's ability to pay. If you cannot afford the fee, you may be able to request a reduced fee or that the counseling be given free of charge. The agency may require you to provide proof of your inability to pay.Back to top
What happens to my home and car when I file a Bankruptcy Petition?
If your equity in the vehicle or home is fully "exempt," you should be able to keep the property. If not fully exempt, you may be able to keep the property by making payments on the non–exempt value in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. In Chapter 13 cases, you can usually keep the property by paying the creditor the value of the property or making payments on the loan, which reflect the actual value of the collateral, rather than the full loan amount. Chapter 13 can be used to help you bring delinquent payments and arrearages on your existing loans current.
In a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you can keep your collateral in one of several different ways: you can continue to make your payments until the debt is paid in full; reaffirm the debt; in the case of fraud by the creditor, challenge the debt; or discharge the debt, if the collateral used to secure the loan was not purchased with the loan money.Back to top
What can I own after I file for Bankruptcy?
Actually, quite a bit. The picture is not as bleak as many fear. You can keep any property that is "exempt" or obtained after the Bankruptcy is filed. If you receive any inheritance or other benefits, such as life insurance or a property settlement, within 180 days after filing for Bankruptcy, you may have to use it to pay creditors if the money or assets do not fall within an exemption.Back to top
Do I have to go to court?
In most cases, the only time you will have to go to court is for the meeting of the creditors. This meeting is generally held at the Bankruptcy Court within 30–45 days after filing your Petition. The meeting is usually short, and often creditors do not even show up. The Trustee will take this opportunity to ask you some simple questions about your case and verify that you have provided the Court with the most accurate information available. You want to be sure and bring your social security card and license or state issued id with you to the meeting.
If there are adversarial hearings, you may have to attend court at a later time. In most cases, your attorney can attend these hearings for you. In the case of a Chapter 13 case you will probably have to attend the hearing to confirm your payment plan.Back to top
Will Bankruptcy ruin my credit?
Unfortunately, if you are considering Bankruptcy, you credit is already bad. If you have fall behind or defaulted on paying certain debts, this alone will hurt your credit rating. So will being too close to or over your credit limit. So will having a balance of greater than 60% of your credit limit. A Bankruptcy will stay on your credit rating for 10 years. Most people think that means they will not be able to get a new credit card or a loan. This is not true Frequently, new cards or loans are offered, even before the Bankruptcy is final. Be aware, however, that any new credit obtained during the active life of your Bankruptcy case can only be obtained with the Bankruptcy Court's approval.
Once your case is finalized you will be able to get credit and loans, but the interest rates may be higher than if you had not filed a Bankruptcy. However, when you file a Bankruptcy, you will be in a better position to pay your secured creditors for your home and vehicle and maybe even save some money for the future, rather than pay it to creditors on a card that you may never pay off. Any debts listed on your credit report should have a zero balance after they are discharged in Bankruptcy. Once you receive a discharge, you should check your credit report to make sure it is being reported correctly. If it is not, you will have to dispute it with the three credit bureaus.Back to top
What do I owe on secured debt after I file for Bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy cancels your personal obligation to pay unsecured and secured debts. That means that a secured creditor cannot sue you personally for a debt that was discharged in Bankruptcy. But, if you keep your home or car and fail to make the payments, the creditor can still take the property back. Even if there is a stay against the creditor from taking any action to repossess the collateral, the creditor may request the Bankruptcy Court to lift the stay and allow them to take back the property. Generally, in a Chapter 7, the creditor will require the debtor to "reaffirm" the loan amount on the collateral, if the debtor wants to keep it.Back to top
What is reaffirmation and do I have to reaffirm a debt?
Reaffirming a debt means that you take it out of the Bankruptcy and personally assume the repayment of that debt. If you fall behind or default on the loan payments in the future and the creditor repossesses the collateral, you may be personally liable for the difference between what they resell the property for and the loan amount left unpaid.
You do not have to reaffirm a debt. It is optional. Bankruptcy law does not require it. If you reaffirm a debt and later change your mind, you have sixty days from the date you signed the agreement to cancel it. Reaffirmation agreements must be in writing, signed by you and your lawyer, approved by the court, and made before the Bankruptcy is over. In a reaffirmation agreement, you can agree to new terms with the lender for a lower monthly payment or interest rate. You can also try to renegotiate the amount you owe on the loan. The lender does not have to agree to this, but it may be worth a try.Back to top
What is the automatic stay?
Once you file a Petition for Bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect. This means that creditors may not attempt to collect any debt that is owed by you. They are not allowed to call you, email you, mail you correspondence, or sue you. If there is an existing lawsuit against you, it must immediately stop. The automatic stay is very powerful. Creditors or lenders who violate the stay are subject to severe penalties and may be held financially accountable for the violation. If you have filed a Bankruptcy and continue to be harassed you should notify your Florida Bankruptcy Attorney immediately.Back to top