Articles Posted in Chapter 7

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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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CreditReportGraphic-150x150Bankruptcy does not have to be a dead end. Instead, it can be the beginning of something so much better. Unfortunately, most people do not see bankruptcy this way and instead equate bankruptcy with utter failure. Bankruptcy allows you relief from bad financial decisions or just poor luck and an opportunity for a fresh start. By using your mistakes as a lesson on what not to do, you can have a lot of success coming out of bankruptcy. Here are some tips for being successful after bankruptcy.

  1. LEARN: As already mentioned, the most important thing to do after bankruptcy is to learn from your past mistakes. It is important to identify which financial decisions led you into bankruptcy in the first place and make sure you do not repeat those mistakes. However, try not to be too hard on yourself. The decision to file bankruptcy is hard enough and comes with enough emotions already. Of course, there are most likely factors that were outside of your control, and there is nothing you can do about that.
  2. PLAN: Create a budget that your income can support and stick to it! Knowing what you can actually afford to spend and sticking to a budget is definitely a formula for success.
  3. GOALS: Set goals and work them into your budget, such as trying to save a certain amount of money each month.
  4. CREDIT: Reestablish your credit, BUT slowly. I always recommend that my clients get a new credit card shortly after receiving their bankruptcy discharge. However, use it for a particular purpose, such as just for gas or food, and pay it off each month and on time. With each payment, your credit will start to rebuild itself. However, keep in mind that the credit terms for this first credit card might not be very favorable. The interest rate will mostly be high and the credit limit low. However, as you use it every month and pay it off, the limit should slowly increase. After a while, apply for a second credit card and it should have more favorable terms after you have started reestablishing your credit.
  5. STAY POSITIVE: Going through bankruptcy can be a very difficult time in one’s life. However, it is important to also focus on the positives of bankruptcy such as the ability to start over again and build something great. If you let your despair keep you down, you will not be any more successful after bankruptcy than you were before. If necessary, seek support or advice. But do not let your despair keep you down!

Continue reading →

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In most Chapter 7 Bankruptcy cases, debtors do not have any property or assets the Chapter 7 Trustee can take and then distribute among the debtors’ creditors. Once the trustee completes his or her investigation into the debtor’s bankruptcy petition and supporting documentation the trustee requests, and after the 341 hearing (also known as the meeting of creditors), the trustee will file a Report of No Distribution with the court. The purpose of the Report of No Distribution is to tell the court the debtor’s creditors will not be receiving any payments.

How do you get a Report of No Distribution?

Again, a Report of No Distribution from a Trustee means that you have no assets that can be taken and given to your creditors. You either have no assets whatsoever, or you are able to protect the assets you have through exemptions.

For example, in Florida, we have a Homestead Exemption, a motor vehicle exemption of $1,000, a personal property exemption ($1,000 when claiming the Homestead Exemption and $4,000 when not claiming the homestead exemption), and a retirement account exemption. Continue reading →

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When filing for bankruptcy, many consider the IRA (Individual Retirement Arrangement) and 401K exemption as the most well-known of the exemptions. This exemption allows individuals who must file bankruptcy the ability to keep their treasured retirement accounts out of their bankruptcy estate and safe from their creditors. In turn, this allows the individual to emerge from bankruptcy with their retirement accounts still 100% intact and en route to a fresh start.

But what happens if the IRA was not originally yours? What if it was inherited? Is it still safe from your creditors in bankruptcy? The answer is yes and no. If you inherited your IRA from your spouse, then it will still have the same protections as if the IRA was originally yours. However, if you inherited the IRA from someone other than your spouse, then it will not qualify for the exemption. Thus, it will be considered part of your bankruptcy estate and subject to the claims of your creditors. Continue reading →

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protect-money-umbrella-150x150One of the best bankruptcy exemptions offered to those filing bankruptcy is the retirement account exemption. As long as your 401K or IRA is ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) qualified, then your 401k or IRA will be protected if you file bankruptcy. Amazingly, there are not a lot of limitations to this rule. This is a wonderful law as it is very common for a person’s biggest asset to be their retirement account. Some of the qualified ERISA retirement accounts include 401(k)s, 402(b)s, IRAs (Roth, SEP, and SIMPLE), Keoghs, profit-sharing plans, money purchase plans, and defined-benefit plans. It is important to note that most employer-sponsored retirements plans are ERISA safe in bankruptcy.

401k Loans

Many who file bankruptcy may have also taken out a 401k loan in an effort to avoid having to file bankruptcy. It is important to understand how your 401k loan will be treated in your bankruptcy. First of all, a 401k loan is not considered a regular debt and will not be treated as any other creditor. In other words, a 401k is not dischargeable through bankruptcy and you will still have to repay it after your bankruptcy is completed. Additionally, in a Chapter 7 in which assets are available to be liquidated, your 401k loan would not receive any portion of the liquidated funds as a normal creditor would. In a Chapter 13, your 401k loan would not be part of your chapter 13 plan. However, you most likely will be allowed to still make payments towards the loan through automatic deductions on your paystubs. Continue reading →

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I remember turning 18 and being so excited to get my first credit card. I was still a senior in high school, so I went to my favorite department store and applied for my very first credit card. To my surprise, I was approved right away! It seemed all too easy. Shouldn’t getting a credit card be a little more difficult to get?

When I got that credit card, I was so excited to purchase a Coach wallet (my first very own big purchase) and vowed to not use the card again until it was paid off. Of course, I fell into the same trap as many other 18-year-olds and did not stop there. I wanted another credit card and went to my second favorite store and filled out another credit card application.

When I arrived at college that fall, I was shocked to see credit card company after credit company with booths set up on campus. They offered ridiculous free items to get students to sign up, and, guess what, it worked! The booths were always busy with students filling out credit card applications. I don’t know what kept me from filling out one of those applications (maybe it was that I already had one or that it had been drilled into me by my family never to purchase what you cannot afford) I never did and am so thankful today I did not. Continue reading →

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Filing bankruptcy with assets can be very stressful. You want to know how filing for bankruptcy will affect those assets before you file so that there are no surprises. One type of asset that you might be concerned about is an investment property. Can you keep it if you file bankruptcy? Possibly, but most likely not without some consequences.

Chapter 7

A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is a liquidation of your assets. If your investment property has any equity in it all, meaning it’s worth more than what you owe on it, then your Chapter 7 Trustee will most likely want to take possession of the property. The Trustee will sell it, and then distribute the proceeds of the sale to your creditors after first paying off all mortgages and liens.

If your property is upside down, meaning you owe more on it that it is worth, then your Trustee MIGHT not go after it because they would get little if anything from selling it. HOWEVER, since all of your assets are liquidated in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, your Trustee can still choose to take possession of the property and short sale it. This applies even if you elected to keep the property and reaffirm the mortgage on your bankruptcy schedules. Continue reading →

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rsz_underwaterhouse-150x150When Texas and Florida, along with several other states along the eastern seaboard of the United States, were hit by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, many mortgage companies offered their borrowers who had been affected by these storms participation in a forbearance program. A forbearance program is where your mortgage company agrees to suspend your mortgage payments for a set period of time. Forbearance programs are usually good for borrowers who are going through a short-term financial situation. The forbearance of mortgage payments is meant to allow the borrower the time they need to get back on their feet and then recommence their regular mortgage payments. The idea behind the forbearance programs after the hurricanes was to allow homeowners time to repair or rebuild their homes that had been damaged by the storms.

Unfortunately, not all forbearance programs have reached their goal. What I have come to learn through the last several months as forbearance programs are coming to an end, is that some of these programs require the borrower to bring their mortgages current at the end of their forbearance period. This means that borrowers must make all missed mortgage payments at one time when their program ends. The issue that many borrowers who have chosen to take advantage of one of these programs is that they were not aware that they would have to make all of the payments at the end of the designated time period. By the time they learned they would be expected to pay their mortgage company all of the payments that were deferred through the forbearance program, it is far too late for them to prepare for such a large payment at one time. This has put many borrowers between a rock and hard place, because they are unable to bring their mortgages current. Continue reading →

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Assets-3-150x150What is an ESOP?

Employee Stock Ownership Plan, better known as an “ESOP,” is a way for employees to have ownership in the company they work for. They are used by several large successful companies because of the various tax benefits they can offer to the company as well as to the employee. Most commonly, employees obtain ownership of the company’s stocks as an award to help motivate and reward the employee. They are also a great way for employees to plan for retirement.

Because of how an ESOP works as a trust fund, employees generally do not have much control or access to their shares until they reach retirement age, or when their shares vest. Because of this lack of access, most ESOPs are treated just like a 401K, or any other retirement plan that is qualified under ERISA, when they file bankruptcy; therefore, ESOPs are treated as an exempt asset.

How does an ESOP work?

Just like a trust fund or spendthrift trust, all shares are retained in an ESOP trust until retirement age or termination of employment. Basically, when a company decides to set up an ESOP, they create a trust that the company makes yearly contributions to. The company then creates a formula that controls how employees receive stock in the company. Before an employee can have access to their stocks, their stocks must first vest. Continue reading →

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payday-150x150Having been unemployed for some time, you have accumulated a lot of debt and are now behind on paying those debts. You are considering filing bankruptcy, but happen to have two vehicles that are paid off and want to sell one of them. Can you sell one of those vehicles and then file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy? The short answer is it depends, and this is why.

Selling one of the vehicles would be considered a pre-bankruptcy transfer of property, and there are several factors that determine whether a person can complete a pre-bankruptcy transfer. Your bankruptcy trustee will look at whether the property in question would have been exempt when you filed your bankruptcy, the price you received for the property, how those proceeds were spent, and the reason for the transfer.

If the property would have been exempt when you filed bankruptcy, then transferring the property prior to filing bankruptcy should not be an issue. However, it could cause a delay in the bankruptcy process as your trustee makes this determination. Your trustee will want to make certain that you received the fair market value of the property and that it was in fact exempt. In Florida, a debtor is allowed $4,000 in personal property and $1,000 in a motor vehicle if they do not claim the homestead exemption. If a debtor claims the homestead exemption, then they are only allowed $1,000 in personal property and $1,000.00 in a motor vehicle. Continue reading →

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