Bankruptcy is a bad word, but it doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t scare us. We at The Orlando Law Group believe in breaking the bad connotations these words grow into by giving you an informed outlook, as well as the information that no one talks about. Sophia Dean has a vast wealth of experience when it comes to bankruptcy, and we wanted to ask her some of the questions we commonly receive regarding the matter.
Why do you think that people wait to file bankruptcy?
There’s a couple of reasons that might be causing someone to wait. I think people tend to avoid their problems. It is a lot of paperwork so some people might be dreading that aspect of filing. Usually, I imagine it is a multitude of things, such as having money coming in that the client does not want to lose. One example I can give is that of the stimulus checks. People keep putting off filing because they keep receiving their stimulus checks. It creates an environment where one might be thinking, “There will be a stimulus check or tax refund around the corner that I don’t want to forfeit.” Through bankruptcy, you can only protect certain amounts of money. This includes $1,000 personal property as well as your home, if you own it. If you do not own a home you get a wild card, which protects $4,000 of personal property. Waiting for any reason could potentially mean that you fall outside of the financial bracket needed to file bankruptcy, and that’s why you need to file at the time when you talk to the attorney, if the time is right.
What are some factors that quality for the time being right?
The first thing we will figure out is if you do qualify for bankruptcy. For example, let us say you have a job where you are making under the threshold, and you qualify for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Step two is, you have debts you cannot pay. You may not be in default yet, but you are struggling to pay your debt, and you are living paycheck to paycheck. The main two factors are your income and your debt. Let us say suddenly you get a raise, and that affects your income. That could potentially put you out of the range for qualifying for bankruptcy. There is a very small window for you to file, and that is why it is so important to commit to the decision if both factors indicate so. When considering criteria, there is a window of six months where we will look back to see what has happened to your income. If you wait to file and something happens to affect that income, you could potentially be exempt from declaring bankruptcy and clearing your debt.
Then on the debt side, your case could go to a debt collector quickly. You can file bankruptcy, but they will still be garnishing your wages. For example, let us say you meet with us to file for bankruptcy, but for whichever reason you do not follow through and times goes by. One day, you could potentially wake up, and all your money could be withdrawn from your bank account because the courts had filed a judgement and garnished your bank account entirely. These are the repercussions of waiting to file for bankruptcy. What we try to help our clients understand is that, at some point, if you do not pay your debts it will result in bank account garnishment. We have no way of knowing when that time will be, but we cannot depend on it happening eventually. We need to act like it is going to happen right now because it could.
How Does Bankruptcy Protect Me?
A lot of people try to continue to pay their debts, and then they come back later and try to file. This does not help because, many times, they do not qualify at that point for bankruptcy, whereas they could have before. Bankruptcy acts as a forcefield, and it is not only a way to wipe clean your debt, but it’s also a way to protect your assets. Filing could be the singular act that stops you from losing money and possessions in the long run.
Why Researching Online Can Mislead You
We spoke to a client who had been doing their own research on google. They moved here from another state and were under the impression that they could not file bankruptcy in Florida for two years. That is wrong, but that is the answer they found on the internet. If you have just moved here, you must be here for 91 days to file in the state. The exemptions, which can all be sorted out with an attorney, is where that client was seeing information about waiting for two years. That has nothing to do with you being able to file for bankruptcy, and because of a misinterpretation of information, they did not qualify for a Chapter 7 because they got a raise in the interim. If they he called me two months earlier, they would have qualified. Therefore, acting immediately can be in your best interest, and why doing your own google research can be misleading.
When I File for Bankruptcy, Are All My Debts Wiped Clean?
Not all debts, but most of them. Exceptions include student loans as well as certain types of tax debt, and certain types of criminal debt. Credit card debt, medical debt, loan debts are all wiped clean. Even mortgage debt is wiped clean, and if you do not want to pay that debt, you do not have to. You will not be able to keep the house, of course, but it will allow you to hit a reset button on your bills. Bankruptcy is a tool that is used to help people who have fallen victim to a circumstantial debt through no fault of their own, and it’s there to help you get back above water.
Should You File Bankruptcy Before You Get A New Job?
Yes. If you are considering bankruptcy, an increase in wages could potentially push you outside of the qualification for filing. We see this many times because there is not enough information educating individuals. Not only that, but you do not want to have to try and stall you getting hired because you are trying to qualify. The best practice would be to go ahead and file, and then begin your job search. Your income level will determine which type of bankruptcy you qualify for, so it is very important that you talk with one of our attorneys before any major changes happen that could affect your income/debt ratio.
Can I File For Bankruptcy If I Am On Unemployment?
One of the questions we get a lot is if you can file bankruptcy if you are on unemployment, and the answer to that is yes, you can. Unemployment does not affect anything regarding filing for bankruptcy. If you are receiving unemployment and you expect to start a job soon, now is the time to give us a call.
Another life change that can alter your ability to file is a change in marital status. Let us say you are getting married, but both of you have debt and want to file for bankruptcy. If you wait and try to file after you are married, then you are counted as having a joint income. This could prohibit your ability to file for bankruptcy and stand in the way of your wiping clean your debt. It may seem obvious, but we have seen situations like this, and because there is not enough education on bankruptcy as a tool, facts like these get overlooked or perhaps are not even considered in the first place.
Can I File Twice?
Whether you can file for bankruptcy does depend on if you have filed before and when that took place. There is an eight-year filing period between two Chapter 7 Bankruptcies. The best practice you can have is to treat this like a one-time situation, even though we have known clients that were looking to file twice. In that situation, unfortunately they would have to wait, but the good news is that, by having the discussion, we can plan in the coming years and work hard to prepare.
The cost of waiting to file is so much higher than the cost of filing for bankruptcy. Attorney’s fees are small in comparison to the fact that your debts, which you are struggling to pay at the time and may never conquer, could potentially be wiped away. My initial consultation is free, so make sure you have your questions prepared and information ready to discuss in that first consultation, and I would be happy to help anyone erase their debt and start fresh. That is what bankruptcy truly is, not a bad word, but instead a tool to help you reset your ability to live your life free of debt and full of possibility. If you are considering it, let me help you make the journey just like I have for so many others. You are not alone in your struggles, and bankruptcy may just be the solution you are seeking.