Gary H. Baker, P.A.

Attorney and Counselor at Law

Representing Consumer Debtors in Bankruptcy, Foreclosure and Collections
Named to the Top Lawyers of Tampa List - Tampa Bay Tribune 2015

News & Information


 June 2015
NEW SUPREME COURT RULING has banned 2nd mortgage lien strips in Chapter 7 cases.

April 2015
Median Income numbers have changed effective with cases filed on or after April 1, 2015.

November 2014
Median Income numbers have changed as of November 1

March 2014
Median Income numbers have been updated. The new annual income figures will be used for Bankruptcy Means Testing in all bankruptcy cases filed after April 1, 2014.


November 2013

Median Income numbers have been updated. The new annual income figures will be used for Bankruptcy Means Testing in all bankruptcy cases filed after November 15, 2013


March 2013

Median Income numbers have been updated. The new annual income figures will be used for Bankruptcy Means Testing in all bankruptcy cases filed after April 1, 2013.


October 2012

Median Income numbers have been updated.  The new annual income figures will be used for Bankruptcy Means Testing in all bankruptcy cases filed after November 1, 2012.


May 2012

11th Circuit Court of Appeals allows Lien Stripping in Chapter 7 cases. 
Read the decision.

April 2012

The IRS National Standards and Median Income Numbers have been updated. These figures are used in Bankruptcy Means Testing. The U.S. Trustee's Office will begin using these new numbers for bankruptcy filings on or after May 1, 2012.

Bankruptcy Basics  

Below is a basic overview of bankruptcy.  Please remember that every case is different and everyone’s personal financial situation is different.  This is a very brief overview.  The information below is meant as an informative guide, and is not a substitute for qualified legal counsel.
 
Gary H. Baker, P.A.
offers a free, no obligation bankruptcy consultation.  We encourage anyone considering filing a bankruptcy to come in for a personal free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney.  During the consultation we will look at your entire financial situation and can offer more specific information and guidance. 
Bankruptcy Attorney in Clearwater and New Port Richey - Florida Lawyer
To schedule your free appointment with a bankruptcy lawyer call (727) 793-0066 or e-mail us now.
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The 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act

In October of 2005 a new bankruptcy law took effect. This “new law” made some major changes to the way in which bankruptcies are filed. It also imposed major changes to the forms and qualifications for filing different chapters of bankruptcy. One of the major changes is a new means testing to determine if a debtor is eligible to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy (“liquidation”) or if a debtor must file a chapter 13 bankruptcy ("wage-earner" or “reorganization”)
 

Bankruptcy Court Basics

Bankrutpcies are filed in Federal Bankruptcy Court. In Florida there are three United States Bankruptcy Court districts (Northern, Middle and Southern). Each county in Florida is designated to file in a specific district, and a debtor must file in the district in which they live. We file cases in the Middle District of Florida.

 

Residency Requirement

It is important to understand how your residency can effect your bankruptcy case. The importance of this will become even more clear as you read through the information below. Under the 2005 bankruptcy rules, the State exemptions that you are entitled to are determined by the State in which you have lived for the 2 years (730 days) prior to filing your bankruptcy.

Therefore, the first step in the process of filing your bankruptcy is to determine which State exemptions you are entitled to. If you have been a resident of Florida for the past 730 days (2 years) then you will be filing with the Florida Exemptions. If you have not been a resident of Florida for the prior 2 years, the rule is more complicated. Your bankruptcy exemptions will be those of the state in which you lived for 180 days prior to the 2 years immediately preceding the bankruptcy filing. For people who have lived in more than one state over the previous few years you can see how complicated this can become.

 If you have questions on your residency and what exemptions will apply, we highly recommend that you consult with a qualified bankruptcy attorney for guidance.

To schedule your free consultation to discuss your bankruptcy filing, exemptions, and more with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, call (727) 793-0066 or e-mail us now.

 

Means Testing

As of the 2005 bankruptcy reform all debtors filing for bankruptcy must complete a means testing evaluation. This means testing determines whether a debtor can file a chapter 7 bankruptcy or whether they will have to enter into a chapter 13 reorganization. One important note, there are instances where a debtor who qualifies to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy through means testing may choose to file a chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Median testing can be very complicated, and there are exceptions and special circumstances that may vary. However, in general a debtor can only file a chapter 7 Bankruptcy if their median income is less than the median income for their state. The median income for each state is published and modified frequently to keep up with current data. The median income also is adjusted for the number of people living in the household. So, a family of 4 is allowed a higher median income than a family of 2 or a single individual.

Median income numbers were just updated in May of 2012.
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Exempt Property in Bankruptcy 

As you read through this bankruptcy overview, you will see that one of the most important issues to you should be what is exempt property (property that you can keep) and what is non-exempt property (property the trustee can take and sell for the benefit of your creditors).  Once again, the exemptions you are allowed will vary depending on your residency. However, for a debtor filing under Florida exemptions, here is a brief listing of some exempt property:

Homestead: Under the new bankruptcy law the homestead exemption for Florida debtors changed. Florida residents who file for bankruptcy and wish to claim a homestead exemption now fall into two categories. For those debtors who purchased and have lived in their homestead for more than 40 months there is an unlimited homestead exemption. This means any amount of equity can be protected. For those debtors who purchased their home less than 40 months ago, the new law exempts $146,450 (this amount is updated every 3 years) of equity in their homestead.

Car: In Florida you are allowed a $1,000 exemption of equity in a car. Most bankruptcy trustees use the NADA value in determining this exemption. Any additional equity in a car is not protected. Note: This is $1,000 of equity.

Personal Property:
Each debtor is allowed a $1,000 exemption for all personal property. This includes clothing, furniture, tools, and cash. In other words, all of your “stuff”. When determing the value of personal property, most trustees use “garage sale value”.
 
Retirement & 401(k): Florida Statutes provide for an exemption for a variety of retirement accounts including 401(k), pensions, IRAs and annuities.

Education Accounts: Florida Statutes provide for an exemption for college savings plans including 529 plans.

Additional Florida Exemptions: Florida Statutes offer exemptions for a number of additional items including health savings accounts and annuities. If you have property that you think may be exempt you should consult a qualified attorney for more specific advice and information.

Non-Exempt Property in Bankruptcy

If you have property that is not-exempt it will be sold by the trustee and the proceeds will be distributed among your creditors. Note: If you have non-exempt property that you wish to keep, you may be able to enter into a buy-back agreement with the trustee.

If you are considering bankruptcy we encourage you to consult with a qualified bankruptcy lawyer. An important part of every bankruptcy filing is determining which of your assets are exempt and which assets are non-exempt. A qualified bankruptcy attorney can help you through this process.

To schedule your free appointment call (727) 793-0066 or e-mail us now.
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Types of Debt 

Secured Debts - those debts where a creditor has a security interest in your property to guarantee payment. The most common examples of this are a mortgage or a car loan.

Reaffirmation?  Bankruptcy law requires you to execute a reaffirmation agreement for any secured property that you wish to keep. For example, if you want to keep your car, and you are able to continue making the car payments, you reaffirm that debt. On the other hand, you may decide to surrender your property and not reaffirm a secured debt.

Unsecured Debts – those debts that are not secured by property. The most common example is credit cards, but this can also include items such as personal loans and medical bills.

Federal Taxes, Student Loans, Child Support, Alimony and other exceptions

There are a number of debts that are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. These include federal income tax, student loans, child support or alimony obligations, luxury goods, and any debt incurred through fraud. This is not an exhaustive list, and special circumstances and timing can effect whether or not debts are dischargeable. If you have questions about whether or not a debt may be dischargeable you should consult with a qualified bankruptcy attorney.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 

**New for Chapter 7 Debtors - May 2012**
Chapter 7 Debtors can now lien strip fully unsecured Second Mortgages. 
Read the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision
here.


Chapter 7 is the chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for liquidation.  In other words, a chapter 7 bankruptcy is designed to liquidate (sell) all of the debtor’s non-exempt property and distribute these proceeds to the creditors.  Individuals considering a chapter 7 bankruptcy should realize that the filing of a chapter 7 bankruptcy petition could result in a loss of property.

Gary H. Baker, P.A. offers a free, no obligation bankruptcy consultation.  At your appointment, we can explain in detail the difference between exempt and non-exempt property, and will answer any questions you may have.

To schedule your free consultation call (727) 793-0066 or e-mail us now.

 Eligibility Requirements for a Chapter 7

 

A debtor must meet the means testing requirements listed above; AND

A debtor must complete the required credit counseling within 180 days before filing; AND

A debtor cannot have been discharged from another bankruptcy proceeding within the prior 180 days; AND

A debtor may not obtain a chapter 7 discharge within 8 years of another chapter 7 filing or within 6 years of a chapter 13 filing.

  

How a chapter 7 bankruptcy works

 

The basic timeline for a chapter 7 bankruptcy will look something like this:

1.  The debtor will file a chapter 7 petition with the bankruptcy court.  This petition will include schedules listing all assets and liabilities, budget information, and answers to a detailed list of questions regarding “financial affairs”.  The filing fee for a chapter 7 bankruptcy case is $306.

2.  The case will be assigned to a judge and trustee.

3.  A 341 meeting will be scheduled between 20 and 40 days after the filing.  Copies of the debtors financial documents will be gathered and forwarded to the trustee prior to the 341 meeting.  At the 341 meeting, the debtor will be put under oath and will answer questions from the trustee.  Any of your creditors may attend the 341 meeting and may also ask questions.

4.  If the debtor has secured debts for property that they wish to keep, they will execute and file with the court the reaffirmation agreement(s). 

5. 
Prior to discharge, the debtor must complete a 2nd credit counseling course.  This 2nd course is a financial management course and must be completed after the bankruptcy filing.

For most debtors, the entire process for a chapter 7 bankruptcy is completed in less than 6 months.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy 

Chapter 13 is the chapter of the Bankruptcy Code that is sometimes called a "wage-earners" plan or a "reorganization".  A Chapter 13 bankruptcy provides for a repayment of all or part of your debt over time.  The repayment plan will last between 36 and 60 months.

There are many reasons that a person may file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.  The main reason is that the person's income is too high to qualify to file a Chapter 7.  After completing a full means test the person simply doesn't qualify for a Chapter 7.

However, there are other reasons why a person may choose to file a Chapter 13 even if they qualify for a Chapter 7.  The include:

-The ability to protect additional assets that would not be protected in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy
-The ability to catch up on payments to secured creditors (i.e. mortgage or car loans)
-The ability to lien strip a totally unsecured 2nd mortgage

Gary H. Baker, P.A. offers a free, no obligation bankruptcy consultation. At your appointment, you will meet with a bankruptcy lawyer who can explain in detail the difference between a Chapter 7 and a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. 

To schedule your free consultation call (727) 793-0066 or e-mail us now.

How a chapter 13 bankruptcy works
The basic timeline for a chapter 7 bankruptcy will look something like this:


1. The debtor will file a chapter 13 petition with the bankruptcy court. This petition will include schedules listing all assets and liabilities, budget information, and answers to a detailed list of questions regarding “financial affairs”. The filing fee for a chapter 13 bankruptcy case is $281.

2. The case will be assigned to a judge and trustee.

3.  Approximately 30 days after filing you must make your first payment under the Chapter 13 repaymnet plan.

4. A 341 meeting will be scheduled between 30 and 40 days after the filing. Copies of the debtors financial documents will be gathered and forwarded to the trustee prior to the 341 meeting. At the 341 meeting, the debtor will be put under oath and will answer questions from the trustee. Any of your creditors may attend the 341 meeting and may also ask questions.

5.  A Confirmation will be held to determine whether the proposed repayment plan will be approved.

6.  You will continue to make your required plan payment to the trustee for 36-60 months depending on your Chapter 13 plan.

7.
Prior to discharge, you must complete a 2nd credit counseling course. This 2nd course is a financial management course and must be completed after the bankruptcy filing, but before you receive your final discharge from the court.

 To schedule your free appointment call (727) 793-0066 or e-mail us now

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Gary H. Baker, P.A.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
2470 Sunset Point Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765

Call us today to schedule your free attorney consultation.
(727) 793-0066
or send us an e-mail:  info@BakerDebtRelief.com


Clearwater Office                                               New Port Richey Office            
2470 Sunset Point Road                                                7218 Congress Street                  
Clearwater, Florida 33765                                              New Port Richey, Florida 34653           
(727)  793-0066                                                             (727) 376-3180                                    
Pinellas County                                                              Pasco County                                        

We are a Bankruptcy Attorney who files Bankruptcies in the Middle District of Florida Bankruptcy Court. From our offices in Clearwater (Headquarters) and New Port Richey Florida we serve clients throughout the Tampa Bay area including:

Pinellas County - Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Largo, Pinellas Park, Seminole, Safety Harbor, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Tarpon Springs; Pasco County - New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Holiday, Hudson, Zephyrhills, Dade City; Hernando County - Spring Hill, Brooksville, Weeki Wachee; Hillsborough County - Tampa, South Tampa, Carrollwood, Odessa, Lutz, Land O Lakes, Plant City, Riverview; as well as clients in Polk and Manatee counties.


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We are a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy
under the United States Bankruptcy Code.

The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience.

Representing Consumer Debtors in Bankruptcy, Foreclosure and Collections
Named to the Top Lawyers of Tampa List - Tampa Bay Tribune 2015