Preparing for Your Initial Consultation with Your Bankruptcy Attorney

Bankruptcy Lawyer St. PetersburgIf you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, the first step is to schedule a consultation with an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy law. Come prepared so that the meeting is as productive and as informative as possible. Your preparation will also help the attorney can give you the best advice possible. This means that you will want to be able to provide a great deal of information to the attorney, and will require that you come with copies of various documents.

Prepare to Discuss the Big Picture

First, you want to give your attorney a broad overview of your situation and why you are considering filing for bankruptcy. Before arriving at the office, think through the following questions and prepare notes if necessary:

  • Have you recently lost your job or other income? Have you recently experienced some kind of major life-changing event that has created a financial hardship?
  • Have any of your creditors brought legal action against you, such as a lawsuit or a garnishment? Are they threatening to proceed with legal action? Are there any judgments against you?
  • Have you received a foreclosure notice? Are you in the eviction process?
  • Is your car being repossessed?
  • Are you going through a divorce?

Drilling Down Into the Details

From there, you will want to give a more detailed picture of your current situation. Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Your marital status and number of children or other dependents
  • Your income and your total household income
  • The total amount owed to various creditors
  • The total value of the assets you own (house, cars, boats, etc.)

This should also include a discussion of what you want to achieve by filing for bankruptcy.

Assemble Your Documents

The next step is the most burdensome, but if you gave serious thought to the steps noted above, you’ve already got a head start. You should arrive at the consultation with copies of the following documents:

  • Tax returns for the last two years.
  • Seven months of bank statements and pay stubs.
  • Copies of your mortgage and any other loan documents for cars or other property.
  • Any and all paperwork related to foreclosure, eviction, lawsuits, garnishments, or other legal actions.
  • Copies of any investment statements, including your 401(k) or other retirement accounts.
  • A copy of your driver’s license and Social Security card.
  • A list of all your debts, including credit cards, medical bills, auto loans, mortgages, etc. If possible, identify the creditor and how much you owe. Provide current account statements for each.

If you can’t find all of these documents, that’s okay—just make an honest effort, and indicate which documents you are unable to find. The attorney may suggest other ways to obtain the same information.

Contact a St. Petersburg Bankruptcy Attorney

We can help you sort through the options to get your life back on track. To schedule an initial consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office at (727) 344-0123 or send us an email through our online contact form.

How Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Can Help Alleviate Financial Stress

Bankruptcy Lawyer St. PetersburgThe decision to file for bankruptcy can overwhelm anyone. Not only are you dealing with aggressive creditors and possible legal action, but you’re also trying to make the right financial decisions for you and your family’s future. In the thick of things, bankruptcy can feel like yet another impossible mountain to climb. However, Chapter 13 bankruptcy can actually help relieve your financial stress and reduce your anxiety.

Halt the Collection Process

The biggest benefit of filing for bankruptcy is that your creditors are legally prohibited from pursuing you once you file, provided that you comply with the court’s requirements. This means that your creditors have to stop calling you and it puts any pending legal action (primarily lawsuits or garnishments) on hold.

Repay What You Owe

Contrary to popular belief, most people who file for bankruptcy actually want to pay their debts. The problem is that they can’t, especially once the interest, late fees, and other penalties start to accrue. By filing for bankruptcy, you can stop those debts from growing, and work out a plan to repay your debts. Chapter 13 bankruptcy provides a viable, realistic plan for repaying your debts. Once they complete the payment plan, many people feel a deep sense of satisfaction, knowing that they have honored their obligations.

Reduce Your Payments

When you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the court will want you to disclose all the debts you have, your monthly income, and any other financial obligations. Working with your attorney and the bankruptcy trustee, you will then propose a payment plan. Part of this process may include reducing your creditors’ claims against you. The ultimate objective of the plan is to repay your debts on terms that you can afford. You can take as long as five years to make payment in full. As a result, you will have much lower monthly payments than you have now.

Reduce the Number of People You Have to Pay

The Chapter 13 payment plan does not require you to negotiate with and then pay each of your creditors individually. Once the court approves the payment plan, you will then make your payments to the court. The court will then disburse payments to those creditors according to your payment plan. In the end, you wind up writing far fewer checks and don’t have to stay on top of multiple payment plans, so long as you stay current on your payments into the court.

Keep Your Property

Another benefit of Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that you may keep your property, such as your house and your car. You will need to keep up with your payments and comply with the court’s requirements, but if you do, you won’t lose these assets to repossession or foreclosure.

Discharge

In addition to the Chapter 13 payment plan, the other objective of filing for bankruptcy is to obtain a discharge of your debts. If your creditors were properly notified of your bankruptcy, you are no longer personally liable for the debts that arose before you filed for bankruptcy.

Contact a St. Petersburg Bankruptcy Attorney to Discuss Your Options

If you are facing multiple collection actions and considering filing for bankruptcy, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you understand your options. To schedule a free consultation with one of the lawyers at Berkowitz & Myer, call us at (727) 344-0123 or send us an email through our online contact form.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – Terms and Definitions

Bankruptcy Lawyer St. PetersburgFiling for bankruptcy can feel extremely stressful. On top of everything else, you’re suddenly involved in a legal proceeding where everyone else is using foreign terminology. To understand your case, your rights, and your obligations, however, you need to understand the basic terms that you will hear over and over (and over) again as your case proceeds.

Discharge – This is an order of the bankruptcy court stating that you are no longer personally responsible for any debt that you incurred before the date you filed for bankruptcy. It is the ultimate goal in filing for bankruptcy.

Automatic stay – This legal order is automatically entered by the court and effective the moment your file for bankruptcy. It prohibits creditors from taking action against you to collect a debt.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy – A form of bankruptcy where a consumer enters into a court-approved payment plan to repay the consumer’s creditors. Under Chapter 13, those who file may take as long as five years to complete the payment plan.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy – Even though this is not the subject of this post, it’s helpful to understand Chapter 7 because it is usually the only other form of bankruptcy relief for consumers. It is often referred to as a complete liquidation because the court will take control of all of your non-exempt assets, sell them to pay your creditors, and then enter the bankruptcy discharge. The case is typically completed in about four to five months.

Chapter 13 plan – This is the payment plan that you will enter to pay your creditors. The bankruptcy court must approve it.

Petition date – This is the date that you file for bankruptcy. It divides your debt and payment obligations into “pre-petition” and “post-petition.” Your bankruptcy will include and discharge your pre-petition debt, while you may remain obligated to pay any post-petition debts.

Trustee – This person is appointed as an administrator of the bankruptcy case, and is usually a lawyer with expertise in bankruptcy law. In a Chapter 13 case, the trustee will review and administer the Chapter 13 plan and distribute payments to creditors. The trustee will also convene and preside over the meeting of creditors.

Meeting of creditors – A meeting where you and your attorney will meet with the trustee and confirm under oath the information you have provided in your bankruptcy documents. The trustee may ask additional questions. Typically, no one else attends the meeting, but other creditors may attend, ask questions, and raise objections.

Co-debtor stay – This protects other co-owners on an account or other property, even if the co-owner did not file for bankruptcy.

Contact a St. Petersburg Bankruptcy Lawyer Today for a Free Consultation

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, the attorneys at Berkowitz and Myer are here to help you with this decision. If you choose to proceed, our attorneys will make sure you understand every step of the process, and never leave you to decipher the legal jargon on your own. Call us at (727) 344-0123 or email us to schedule your free consultation.

What Should Do if You Can’t Make Your Chapter 13 Payment?

Bankruptcy Lawyer St. PetersburgFiling for bankruptcy is a stressful process that directly impacts the lives of those who file. When you file for chapter 13 bankruptcy, you state that you, using your regular income, will follow a plan to repay all or a part of your debts over three to five years. Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings are particularly attractive because filers may save their homes from foreclosure.

Filers are required to follow a chapter 13 repayment plan. By failing to remain up-to-date on your repayment plan, you run the risk of having your bankruptcy case dismissed by a trustee or creditor. Options exist for you to avoid negative consequences should you become aware that you will be unable to make a chapter 13 payment.

Work With Your Bankruptcy Trustee

You will be assigned a bankruptcy trustee in a chapter 13 bankruptcy case. The trustee will collect your timely payments and distribute them to the appropriate creditors. Since your bankruptcy works as an intermediary between you and your creditors, it is advisable to inform your trustee that you will be unable to make a payment. The trustee may work with you in an informal capacity, especially if the reason for your missed payment is temporary or the result of an unforeseen financial emergency, such as the unexpected loss of a job. By informing their trustees, debtors may avoid the dismissal of their case, and debtors may be able to get caught up over the course of the following months.

Consider Modifying Your Repayment Plan

Chapter 13 repayment plans may be modified. It is not always possible to follow a repayment plan as originally designed. Modifying a repayment plan may provide relief for debtors facing a sudden financial emergency such as a loss of employment. A debtor can petition the bankruptcy court to modify his or her repayment plan. The petition must delineate the change in circumstances requiring the modification as well as those specific changes the debtor wishes to make. The court will review the petition, applying the appropriate tests to determine whether a modification is appropriate.

Obtain a Hardship Discharge

Eligible debtors may receive a hardship discharge. In the event that a hardship discharge is granted, a debtor shall be relieved of his or her remaining payments. A court determines whether a hardship discharge is appropriate after reviewing the debtor’s financial situation and analyzing the best interests of the parties. It is important to note that certain debts may not be discharged, and you should speak with an experienced attorney who can better explain the effect of your hardship discharge.

Perhaps bankruptcy isn’t right for you. Although filing for chapter 13 bankruptcy can provide financial relief and stability, your inability to continue making required payments may provide you with no benefit. Thus, debtors may consider dismissing their bankruptcy case and refiling.

Contact Us Today to Speak with a St. Petersburg Bankruptcy Attorney

Alternatives exist should you be unable to make your chapter 13 payment. However, you should avoid navigating the complex options available alone. Our skilled and experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Berkowitz & Myer are committed to providing you with the legal counsel you require when faced with the complexities of chapter 13 bankruptcy. Schedule your initial consultation by calling us at (727) 344-0123 or by contacting us through our online contact form.

Four Chapter 13 Myths Debunked

Bankruptcy Attorney St. PetersburgMany people are under the mistaken impression that filing for any type of bankruptcy basically constitutes financial ruin. This is certainly NOT the case, and thousands of people file every year—and are often significantly better off than they were prior to filing. Here is the truth about 4 persistent myths about Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Everyone Who Files for Bankruptcy Is Financially Irresponsible

Sadly, many people think that people who file for bankruptcy have somehow been financially irresponsible. This could not be further from the truth. Individuals file for chapter 13 bankruptcy for a variety of different reasons. An individual’s debts can spiral out of control for reasons such as unexpected medical expenses or sudden and drastic change income. Because chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to organize one’s debts in a manner that facilitates repayment over time, this option could be considered much more financially responsible than trying to pay debts that you can’t afford!

Individuals filing for chapter 13 bankruptcy develop a repayment plan. This plan is developed as the parties calculate a number of regular payments, over a period of three to five years, in which the debtor can repay his or her outstanding debts. Thus, a debtor takes control of his or her finances and makes regular payments in order to repay his or her debts.

Your Payment Will Be Financially Difficult

A repayment plan, under chapter 13 bankruptcy, is designed in a way so that a debtor can meet his or her repayment obligations taking his or her income into consideration. When preparing a repayment plan, the parties evaluate the debtor’s overall outstanding debts, his or her current and steady income, and the availability of exemptions to reduce overall debt obligations.

A change to a debtor’s financial situation is manageable. Although debtors have a legal obligation to make timely payments under their repayment plan, it is understood that one’s financial situation may change. Debtors may lose their jobs or suffer an emergency which impacts their finances. Should this occur, a debtor need not fear that his or her case will be dismissed. In fact, many courts and bankruptcy trustees recognize that these events do occur. In the event that a debtor’s financial situation changes, alternatives for repaying those obligations in arrears can be made available to financially-troubled debtors.

You Will Never Get Credit Again

Many individuals are worried that, should they file for bankruptcy, they will be unable to secure a line of credit in the future. This is simply not true. Yes, credit does impact an individual’s credit in the short term, but many people who file for bankruptcy are able to obtain credit within a few months or years of filing. Furthermore, notice of a bankruptcy will remain on one’s credit for a maximum of 10 years. After, the individual’s credit report will be wiped clean of any bankruptcy.

Filing Without a Lawyer Is Easy

Filing for bankruptcy without a lawyer is permitted. Filing without an attorney is known as filing pro se. However, while filing for bankruptcy without a lawyer is possible, it will not always be done well. Instead, a debtor may find it difficult to prepare all of the necessary documents, identify potential exemptions, or even understand whether or not he or she qualifies for certain bankruptcy exceptions.

Call Us Today to Speak to a St. Petersburg Bankruptcy Attorney

Here at Berkowitz & Myer, we are determined to help you in this difficult time. We will evaluate your property and help you prepare and execute the chapter 13 bankruptcy filing that best suits your situation. Schedule your initial consultation by calling our office today at (727) 344-0123 or sending us an email through our online contact form.

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