1. What is bankruptcy?
Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding that allows individuals or business to discharge debts.  The most common types of bankruptcies are Chapter 7, Chapter 11, and Chapter 13.

2. What can I expect from the free consultation?
During the initial consultation we will review your financial situation, explain the bankruptcy process, determine which bankruptcy chapter you will be eligible to file, determine which assets are likely to be non-exempt, and answer any questions or concerns you have.  Typically the consultation will last one hour and can be schedule for any day of the week.

3. What do I need to begin the filing process?
You will need to fill out our questionnaire and bring it with you to our initial consultation.  Furthermore you will likely need to provide us with pay stubs for six months, three years of tax returns, and other financial documents.

4. Do I need to be insolvent to file for bankruptcy?
No, you do not need to be insolvent to file for bankruptcy.

5. Do I need to appear in court?
Yes, you will need to appear at a 341 meeting where a trustee and any creditor can ask you questions about your bankruptcy schedules, your assets and your liabilities.

6. When will the debt collectors stop calling?
At the moment you file for bankruptcy your creditors will receive a notice of your filings and they will not be allowed to contact you anymore.  If a creditor continues to call you after you have filed for bankruptcy please notify your bankruptcy attorney.

7. Will I lose all of my belongings?
No, there are both federal and Florida exemptions that will allow you to retain some of your assets.  If you file Chapter 13 you will be able to retain all of your assets.

8. What are alternatives to filing for bankruptcy?
Sometimes bankruptcy is not the best solution for the client.  It might be better for the client to negotiate with the creditor, to reduce the amount owed, and to setup a payment plan.  During the initial consultation we will review all options with you and help you decide which option is the best for you.

9. What is the difference between a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
In a chapter 7 bankruptcy your debts will be discharged immediately, but you may have to give up some of your assets.  If you have little or no assets then Chapter 7 would probably be the best solution for you.

In a Chapter 13 plan you are allowed to keep all of your assets, but you will need to create a repayment plan that typically lasts three to five years.  If you have a second or third mortgage on your home, and there is no value in your home, then the second and third mortgage can be removed.  Upon the completion of the repayment plan your debts will be discharged.

10. Who can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
If you have lived in Florida for the past two years and you qualify under the means test then you will be eligible to file for Chapter 7.

11. What is Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves the creation of a repayment plan that lasts between three to five years.  Typically Chapter 13 is available to those individuals who don’t qualify for Chapter 7 or want to keep non-exempt assets.  At the end of the repayment plan, the debts will be discharged.

12. Can I remove my second mortgage in a Chapter 13?
Typically if the value of the house is limited to the first mortgage only, and the second mortgage has no equity then the second mortgage can be removed.

13. How long is the repayment plan in Chapter 13?
The average Chapter 13 repayment plan is between three to five years.

14. How much do I have to pay back in a Chapter 13 repayment plan?
The percentage of your debt that you will need to repay depends upon your monthly income and your assets.

15. Which assets are protected in bankruptcy?
All assets that are exempt under Florida law will be protected.

16. Are taxes dischargeable in bankruptcy?
Taxes are generally non-dischargeable in bankruptcy.

17. Are student loans dischargeable?
Student loans are generally non-dischargeable unless the debtor can show an undue hardship.

18. Who gets notification of my bankruptcy?
All of your creditors will get notification of your bankruptcy filing.

19. What does a bankruptcy trustee do?
The bankruptcy trustee administers the bankruptcy.  Their job is make sure that the creditors receive as much money as possible.  The trustee will also administer and ask you questions during your 341 hearing.

20. Can I amend my bankruptcy petition after I file?
Yes, if you have forgotten to include a creditor in your bankruptcy petition, you may amend the petition to include the new creditor.

21. How long will my bankruptcy stay on my record?
Your bankruptcy filings will typically remain on your record for a period of seven to ten years.

22. How can I rebuild my credit after filing bankruptcy?
If you continue to pay your bills on time after bankruptcy you will start to receive credit offers.  After about two years of good payment you will likely be able to obtain good terms on a mortgage or any other type of loan.

Shmucher Law, PL, a bankruptcy law firm, represents debtors, creditors, and trustees in bankruptcy matters throughout Broward and Miami-Dade counties.