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With tax season upon us, many Americans are looking forward to getting big tax refunds. Many of us use these refunds to  replace aging appliances, catch up on car payments or put into a vacation fund for when warmer weather finally comes back.   However, many people are also worried about how to deal with debt that they racked up during the holiday season. In order to get relief from this debt, and with holiday ornaments finally put away, many consumers contemplate filing bankruptcy after the New Year begins.  Filing bankruptcy gives consumers a fresh start in their financial life. However, there is a trade-off involved: while filing bankruptcy will wipe out most of your debt, you might have to give up or buy back property that is not “exempt.” Filing for bankruptcy could require you to pay for an asset (usually a car) for which you already paid.

The filing of a bankruptcy case creates an estate similar an estate that is created after someone dies. This estate is made up of one’s assets that are not exempt under the law. The United States government appoints a trustee in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case to liquidate (or sell) any non-exempt assets and use the proceeds to pay unsecured creditors like credit cards. In order to be able to protect property and keep the trustee from taking from you when you file bankruptcy, the Debtor must claim the property is exempt under Florida or federal law. (Florida has “opted-out” of federal Bankruptcy exemptions, so Debtors may only use exemptions under Florida law or non-bankruptcy federal laws.)

The only part of tax refunds that is specifically exempt under Florida law is the part of the refund from the Earned Income Tax Credit. (Although Judge Jennemann in Orlando recently held that Child Tax Credit is exempt in Chapter 7 cases.)  The rest of your tax refund falls under the personal property exemptions under Florida law, which are among the stingiest in the nation. There are no specific exemptions under  Florida law to project the Child Tax Credit; the American Opportunity Tax Credit (which helps families pay for postsecondary exaction); the Lifetime Learning Credit (which helps people who go to college later in life or have to change jobs due to down-sizing or loss of jobs because of technology or free trade agreements); or the Child and Dependent Care Credit (which helps pay daycare costs for working parents). Many of these tax refunds are refundable and therefore give taxpayers a much larger refund than they otherwise would have received. If these refunds cannot be exempt under the law, you could lose them to the Chapter 7 trustee and not be able to spend them  the way in which you intended.

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Bankruptcy Filings for Older Floridians Increase


Florida has seen bankruptcy filings for older Floridians increase in recent years. A bankruptcy filing is the term used when an individual or company cannot repay their debts and asks a Court for relief. A Jacksonville Bankruptcy Petition filed with the Court begins the bankruptcy filing. Older Floridians refer to individuals who are 65 or older and primarily live in Florida.

Bankruptcy filings for older Floridians have tripled over the last 25 years. This is a trend seen across the entire U.S. In 1991, only 1.2 out of every 1,000 Americans between ages 65 and 74 filed bankruptcy. By 2016, that increased to 3.6 out of every 1,000 Americans. Interestingly, while bankruptcy filings have increased for older Americans, bankruptcy filings have decreased among young Americans.

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Florida has seen bankruptcy filings increase for older Floridians in recent years. A bankruptcy filing is the term used when an individual or company cannot repay their debts and asks a Court for relief. A Bankruptcy Petition filed with the Court begins the bankruptcy filing. Older Floridians refer to individuals who are 65 or older and primarily live in Florida.

Bankruptcy filings for older Floridians have tripled over the last 25 years. This is a trend seen across the entire U.S. In 1991, only 1.2 out of every 1,000 Americans between ages 65 and 74 filed bankruptcy. By 2016, that increased to 3.6 out of every 1,000 Americans. Interestingly, while bankruptcy filings have increased for older Americans, bankruptcy filings have decreased among young Americans. Continue reading →

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Means-Test-150x150After a client has decided to file bankruptcy, their next question is always what information is needed to file bankruptcy in Jacksonville, Florida. Since Federal Law requires 100% full disclosure of a person’s assets, debts, and income, getting together the information needed to begin your bankruptcy can be very overwhelming at first. But, as with everything else, the information required can vary from person to person based on the number of debts and assets you might have. Here is a list of the most common documents your Bankruptcy Attorney might need to adequately prepare your bankruptcy petition.

Questionnaire: Your bankruptcy attorney will most likely begin by asking you to fill out a fairly extensive questionnaire. Not only will the questionnaire ask you to list all of your debts, income, and assets, it will ask many questions about many different types of assets you might have held and transactions you have done in the past two to five years. The questionnaire will give your attorney a very good overall picture of what your financial profile really looks like and will help them determine what other types of information is needed to file bankruptcy in Jacksonville, Florida. Continue reading →

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Many people in Jacksonville, Florida rent their home residences, which is why so many of my clients ask me “how will filing Bankruptcy affect being a renter?” It seems no matter where you are in Jacksonville, Florida you cannot help but notice all of the rental complexes as well as the many new apartment and condo complexes constantly being built. There is no question about it. Jacksonville, Florida has a huge renters market. That is why it is so important to understand how filing bankruptcy will affect being a renter in such a huge rental market.

First, you will be very surprised to learn that bankruptcy most likely will not have the devastating impact on your ability to be a renter as you might expect. Of course, everyone’s specific situation is going to differ. But as long as you had a good rental history prior to filing bankruptcy, have a steady job, and make sure you do not make the same mistakes that led you into bankruptcy, you should be perfectly fine. Albeit, you might be required to make a larger security deposit or jump through a few more hoops. And the longer it has been between the time you filed bankruptcy and when you apply for a new rental agreement, the less of an affect filing bankruptcy will have on being a renter. Below are several factors potential landlords might take into account: Continue reading →

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Bringing your mortgage current though Bankruptcy in Jacksonville, FL might be a possibility. But you must first take into account your income, how far behind you are on you mortgage payments, as well as all of your other debts. Bringing your mortgage current through Bankruptcy in Jacksonville, FL is a three to five year commitment that comes with its own challenges.

In order to bring your mortgage current through Bankruptcy, you must first file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy even if you qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a reorganization of your debts through a 60 month payment plan; referred to as a Chapter 13 Plan. Based on your income and family size, you make payments to a trustee. The trustee then distributes these monthly payments proportionally to your creditors. Whichever debts have not been paid off at the end of the 60 months are discharged.  Continue reading →

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As a very last resort for debt relief, many people look to bankruptcy after identity theft in Jacksonville, Florida. Identity theft is a major issue throughout the United States and can leave the victim with a mess to clean up. One of the biggest results of being the victim of identity theft is having to deal with debt collectors and having a bad credit score for debts you did not acquire; even after filing a police report. After filing a police report, it is almost impossible to actually locate the individual who stole your identity. This leaves you with very few options as to how to get away from the debt that is not yours. This is also all too often the case even after you have contacted each credit card company, informed them that the account is due to identity theft and provided them with proof that the debt is not yours (including a police report). These debts can even remain on your credit report, causing a bad credit score, after disputing each indebtedness with all three credit bureaus. Continue reading →

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choose-150x150Many times, I meet with potential clients who are in the process of weighing credit counseling v. bankruptcy in Jacksonville, Florida in hopes of achieving debt relief. These potential clients, who largely become clients, want to know what the main differences are between credit counseling and bankruptcy. I always stress the importance of my client’s goals as they try to decide which option is best for them. For some, bankruptcy is the last possible option they will consider. This is due to the bad stigma many people associate bankruptcy with, but this is why bankruptcy might make the most sense in the long run.

Credit Counseling

Let’s start with defining credit counseling. Credit counseling is when you work with an agency or company you have hired to help you come up with a plan to pay off your debt. However, you must be very careful when choosing a credit counseling agency as many charge high rates and do not actually help you pay off your debt as promised. I have many clients who have come to me after this specific experience. It is best to choose a not-for-profit agency. Continue reading →

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How to rebuild your credit score after bankruptcy is a question I get asked from just about all of my clients. It is one of the most important unanimous concerns clients seem to have going into bankruptcy and it should be. In fact, the toll filing bankruptcy can take on your credit score is probably one of the most common reasons why many people in Jacksonville, Florida look at bankruptcy as a very last resort and avoid it all costs. Unfortunately, most are falsely under the assumption they will not be able to use any credit for seven to ten years after filing bankruptcy. But this is not always the case. If you start taking steps to rebuild your credit score after your bankruptcy is concluded, you could have a great credit score in just one to two years.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to rebuild your credit score after bankruptcy quickly. Continue reading →

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I have written many blog posts over the years concerning the MEANS test in Jacksonville, Florida and the deductions that can be used. To jog your memory, the MEANS test is required when your income is above the median income in your state for your household size. It is meant to prohibit high-income households from filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The MEANS test allows you to deduct specific expenses that can help you qualify. The MEANS test is also used to determine your disposable income in a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, which in turn determines your Chapter 13 Plan and your monthly payments. But what types of expenses can be deducted on the MEANS test?

First, it is important to note that some expenses have predetermined amounts. Expenses such as food, utilities, housing and other necessary monthly expenses are predetermined by IRS local and national standards unless you have extenuating circumstances. Continue reading →

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