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Bankruptcy Attorney-Debt Relief Services 

Bankruptcy is effectively used to stop a foreclosure sale, stop wage garnishment, stop harassing phone calls, modify your mortgage, lien strip a second mortgage, reduce car payments, eliminate certain taxes and of course reduce the entire debt liability and give the filer a fresh start.

Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy will provide immediate and tangible relief to your financial problems via the automatic stay. The automatic stay is an umbrella of protection that immediately halts all debt collection including foreclosure proceedings. Once the bankruptcy petition is filed, one of the first things that people will mention is a complete sense of relief and happiness.  Most clients say that after the bankruptcy petition is filed, that they had the most peaceful night of sleep that they have had in a long time.

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Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Can Delay or Stop Foreclosure 

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is more often used to delay a foreclosure than to block it permanently. You’re more likely to be able to keep your house if you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. But even if you think you’ll need to give up your house sooner or later, Chapter 7 bank­ruptcy can still be very valuable when you’re facing foreclosure. A Florida foreclosure lawyer that is also trained in the bankruptcy code is your best weapon.

Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy offers different benefits, depending on your situation.

If you want to keep your house and are current on your first mortgage, you can get other debt (including a second or third mortgage, in some cases) canceled, freeing up money to put toward payments on your first mortgage.

If you decide to give up your house, you can:

  • delay foreclosure proceedings for two to four months, and
  • get all or most of your debts permanently canceled so that you can have a fresh start after foreclosure.

Bankruptcy is a wonderful way to deal with the various liabilities that you might incur while holding off a foreclosure or going through one. Simply put, with a few exceptions, the debts all go away. And that’s not all, as they say in the late-night TV ads. Credit card debts, medical bills, and most money judgments arising from lawsuits over breach of contract or negligence go away as well. So if you are up to your neck in these types of debt, bankruptcy is something to seriously consider, whether you want to free up income to pay your mortgage (by decreasing your debt load), or whether you are headed towards a foreclosure and want to get a fresh start.

Of course, bankruptcy is not for everyone. There are the obvious psychological barriers; no one likes to admit that bankruptcy is really necessary. And if you’re concerned about rebuilding your credit as soon as possible, bankruptcy might best be avoided entirely. In these turbulent times, it’s impossible to tell what kind of a hit bankruptcy will have on your credit or for how long.

 If you’re interested in modifying your mortgage, see a HUD-approved counselor before you file for bankruptcy. If you are seeking a modification of your mortgage principal or payments, or are attempting to refinance your current mortgage either in or out of the government programs described in Ch. 4, talk to a HUD-approved housing counselor before filing bankruptcy. It’s unclear whether a modification can proceed while a bankruptcy is pending. It’s also unclear whether you can modify a mortgage after your bankruptcy if, as usually happens, you discharge the mortgage debt in your bankruptcy and only the lien remains.

Bankruptcy and the Automatic Stay-Stop the Creditor Calls

An automatic stay is a court order that goes in to effect after you file bankruptcy. For many people this is the most tangible benefit of filing bankruptcy. This court order prevents your creditors from trying to collect any debt from you from the moment you file bankruptcy. This means that they cannot phone or write you, harass or threaten you, and above all, they cannot sue you.

Quite simply, it is the automatic stay that gives you the immediate relief from debt collectors. If a debt collector, or anyone that has been listed in the bankruptcy, contacts you without specific permission from the court, you have the right to sue. The automatic stay provides protection from all debt collection activities and allows you breathing room to begin your financial recovery.

To learn more about the automatic stay and the benefits that a bankruptcy can provide, contact our bankruptcy lawyer.


Top 10 Bankruptcy Myths Explained

Myth 1: My credit will be hurt for 10 years after filing for bankruptcy.

This is not true, most people will actually see their credit score increase in the years following a bankruptcy filing. The actual bankruptcy filing stays on a credit report for 10 years, but if you keep your bills current following a bankruptcy filing and make sure your credit report is accurate you should see improvement on your credit score in as little as two years.

Myth 2: Both spouses need to file bankruptcy together.

You do not have to file bankruptcy with your spouse.  However, unless you are seperated and living together both spouses will need to complete the bankruptcy questionnaire in order to determine your household income. There may be ways to protect one spouses credit while saving your home with a single bankruptcy filing. During your free consultation we can review your specific circumstances to decide what is in your best interest.  

Myth 3: Creditors can still contact me after filing for bankruptcy.

Creditors must stop all contact with you immediatly upon filing bankruptcy. This means that while the bankruptcy is pending there can be no harassing phone call, no collection letters, and no lawsuits.  The automatic stay shields you from all collection activitity and gives you peace of mind that you are finally getting your debt put behind you.

Myth 4: I will lose my property after filing for bankruptcy.

The fact is that most people are able to retain all of their property even after filing bankruptcy.  In many cases our bankruptcy clients find that their assets are exempt pursuant to the bankruptcy code.  It is important to contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney to ensure that you are taking advantage of all available exemptions. Although in the end most people are able to keep most of their property it is not an automatic occurence.  In fact, Florida has one of the best homestead exemptions in teh country, but has one of the worst personal property and vehicle exemptions.  You should speak with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer to understand your options. 

Myth 5: I will never be able to get another credit card or loan.

The truth is many people find it easier to get credit after they file bankruptcy. Many people mistakenly believe that they will not be eligible for any type of credit after filing bankruptcy, more often the opposite is true.  Once debts have been discharged for a period of time, the process of credit restoration can begin.  In fact, some have estimated that a bankruptcy may actually help your credit in the future, thus making credit more accessible in the future.  In some cases, clients receive credit card offers in the mail only two months after receiving their discharge.  While the rebuilding of credit takes time and effort on the part of the debtor, bankruptcy is not a credit death sentence.  We will show you specific steps that you can take to help rebuild your credit you file bankruptcy.

Myth 6: I can only file bankruptcy once. 

Not True. You can file for bankruptcy relief more than one time if you meet certain conditions. So that we can advise you regarding the availability of bankruptcy in your particular circumstances, you must disclose any prior filings to us.  Remember that we are here to help you and we must have accurate and complete information to assit you. For people that are barred from filing an additional bankruptcy for a period of time we offer consumer protection services that can protect you and stop the creditor calls without filing bankruptcy.

Myth 7 : All my debts will be eliminated if I file Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Many types of debt can be erased. However, child support and alimony, student loans, certain taxes and debt incurred fraudulently cannot be eliminated.  We will discuss with you in detail which debts will be eliminated and any debts that may be a problem.

If you are seriously considering filing for bankruptcy protection, you may wish to consult a reputable and experienced bankruptcy attorney who can help guide you through the confusing and complicated process.  Having an attorney on your side can provide you with the peace of mind that comes from knowing all your bankruptcy bases are covered.

Myth 8: I will lose everything I  own.

Not True. The goal of bankruptcy is to protect you and your assets, not to punish you and toss you into the streets. In probably 95% of the Chapter 7 cases, nothing is lost. In virtually all of the remaining 5% of cases, the Debtor knows going into the process that some property will be surrendered either to the Chapter 7 Trustee or to the secured creditor.  Depending upon your situation and what property you are concerned about keeping a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be the best decision.

If you are behind in mortgage payments and need time to catch up, bankruptcy offers you the chance to reorganize your debts and catch up on the amount you are behind in payments, called “arrears,” over a period of 3-5 years. In a way, the bankruptcy will force the mortgage company to work with you, which is something that we know doesn't happen on it's own.  Go ahead and ask your mortgage company if they will let you catch up on the arrears over a period of 3-5 years interest free.  You and I both know you are about as likely to win the lottery as have your mortgage company do something that will help you. Once in bankruptcy, the lenders have no choice but to cooperate so long as you meet the qualifications and maintain the planned payment arrangement.

Myth 9 : I will lose my 401(k) or retirement plan.

In almost all cases you can keep your 401(k) if the retirement plan is an ERISA qualified plan. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, or ERISA, plans have been determined to be protected or exempted according to Florida exemptions. As a result, you may want to consider bankruptcy before withdrawing money from your 401(k) or pension plan. IRAs are usually protected.  In fact, it is almost NEVER a good idea to withdraw money from your retirement account if you think you may be facing a foreclosure or a bankruptcy.  To discuss what you should do and how to avoid making a huge mistake call to speak to our bankruptcy attorney.

Myth 10 : Everyone will know I filed Bankruptcy.

It is extremely rare that anyone will ever know you filed bankruptcy. Although bankruptcy is a public legal proceeding, it is very unlikely that anyone will find out about your bankruptcy unless they run a credit check on you or have access to the bankruptcy court’s system. With the number of bankruptcy filings over the past few years, most publications do not list bankruptcy filings.

Bankruptcy Filings of the Rich and Famous.

People facing financial difficulties often feel like they are the only ones having financial troubles. Many feel embarrassed and isolate themselves from their community. Some are reluctant to file for bankruptcy because they are afraid they will be labeled failures and irresponsible by their peers. They do not realize that many people, including famous celebrities, have faced similar financial difficulties and filed for bankruptcy to discharge their debts. Below is a list of a few famous people including artists, athletes, authors, actors and businessmen who filed for bankruptcy

reynolds bankruptcy
 Burt Reynolds was $10 million in debt when he filed for bankruptcy after his 1996 divorce. He went on to win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in the movie Boogie Nights.

rembrant bankruptcy
 Rembrant went bankrupt in 1665 and his house and collections were auctioned off.  Unfortunately, the money raised wasn't enough to cover his debt so he set up an art-dealing business to keep his creditors at bay.

micky rooney bankruptcy
 Mickey Rooney filed for bankruptcy in 1996 because he owed over $1.75 million to the IRS.
donald trump bankruptcy
Donald Trump: Donald Trump found himself $900 million in debt in 1990 and lost a lot of his business ventures but somehow restructured his debt to be back on top running a billion-dollar empire.


mark twain bankruptcyMark Twain went bankrupt in 1894 thanks to bad investments, especially in new inventions, and his publishing house going under. Twain went on an around-the-world lecture tour to pay of his creditors and did so in full in 1898.


oscar wilde bankruptcy

Oscar Wilde, in trouble for “gross indecencies,” was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1895 and lost some of his prized possessions including first editions of his own books. After serving his prison term, his friends helped him to bring his estate out of bankruptcy.


pt barnum bankruptcy

P.T. Barnum is best known for being half of the “Barnum & Bailey Circus” but he actually didn’t get into that until he was 61-years-old. He first opened a museum in New York City showcasing nature’s oddities like Tom Thumb who was only 2 feet 9 inches tall. He also invested in the development of East Bridgeport, Connecticut and went bankrupt when that didn’t work out. He bounced back in four years and got into the circus business.

toni braxton bankruptcy

Toni Braxton sold over 15 million albums in the years leading up to her 1998 filing for bankruptcy and some believe she filed so she could get out of her recording contract with record label LaFace. When she filed, Braxton was $3.9 million in debt and all of her household possessions, including the two Grammys she was awarded in 1997 were priced to sell so she could pay off her creditors. Despite her conflict with her label, she signed a new contract in 1999 worth $25 million with them.


buffalo bill bankruptcy

Buffalo Bill organized his “Wild West Show” in the late 1800’s and went on to become quite wealthy. Even though he made millions touring the country, he was also very generous and gave away so much money that he had to file for bankruptcy in 1914. He died bankrupt in 1917 and was buried on Lookout Mountain.


francis ford coppola bankruptcy

Francis Ford Coppola, responsible for directing the Godfather trilogy and winner of five Academy Awards before he was 40,  was $300,000 in debt before the first Godfather movie came out. He then was able to rebound but began bankruptcy proceedings after his 1982 musical One From The Heart tanked. Luckily, he borrowed the money from his mother to get into the wine business and again turned his financial future around.


walt disney bankruptcy

Walt Disney’s name is synonymous with Mickey Mouse and the “happiest place on earth,” Disneyland. However, Disney’s career wasn’t always prosperous. In 1921, he began a company called the Laugh-O-Gram Corporation in Kansas City, Missouri but was forced to file for bankruptcy two years later because his financial backers pulled out. It must have been fate because Disney then headed to Hollywood and became one of the highest paid animators in history.


ulysses s grant bankruptcy Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, became a partner in a financial firm which went bankrupt. Dying from throat cancer, Grant wrote a memoir to pay off his debts.


dorothy hamil bankruptcy Dorothy Hamill was the 1976 National, World and Olympic champion and moved on after that to the Ice Capades. She purchased the struggling company and tried to get it going again but she had to sell in 1995 and filed for bankruptcy herself in 1996.

hershey bankruptcy

Milton Hershey founded Hershey’s Foods Corporation in 1903. Hershey dropped out of school after 4th grade, because his family moved around a lot, and got an apprenticeship as a printer. He wasn’t keen on the business and tried his hand at candy. His first four attempts failed and forced him to file for bankruptcy but his fifth resulted in a major corporation that’s doing pretty darn good to this day.


larry king bankruptcy

Larry King has interviewed over 30,000 people during his career but his rise to fame for radio work in the 60’s derailed him financially. He was in debt $352,000, charged with grand larceny and accused of stealing $5,000 from a business partner. The charges were dropped but he struggled to get back on his feet and ended up claiming bankruptcy in 1978.


abraham lincoln bankruptcy

The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, declared bankruptcy in 1833 and spent 17 years of his paying off the money that he borrowed from friends to start his business. It took Lincoln 30 years to achieve his goal of becoming President of the United States.


william mckinley bankruptcy

William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, found himself $130,000 in debt after he co-signed on a loan for a friend and the friend went bankrupt.


henry ford bankruptcy

Henry Ford, automobile manufacturer, his first two automobile manufacturing companies failed. The first company filed for bankruptcy and the second ended because of a disagreement with his business partner. In June 1903, at the age of 40, he created a third company, the Ford Motor Company with a cash investment of $28,000.00. By July of 1903 the bank balance had dwindled to $223.65, but then Ford sold its first car, and as they say the rest is history.


johnny unitas bankruptcy

Johnny Unitas, legendary Hall of Fame football quarterback, was a great athlete but a terrible businessman. Each of his business ventures, including bowling alleys, land deals and restaurants, was unsuccessful. He filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991.


willie nelson bankruptcy

Willie Nelson declared bankruptcy in 1990 and claimed to owe the IRS $16.7 million. The IRS seized his bank accounts and real estate that he had in six states and in turn Nelson released an album titled “The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories?” to pay them what he owed.


Benefits of Filing Bankruptcy | Florida BK Attorneys

Bankruptcy provides immediate and tangible relief to your financial problems.  One of the first things that people will mention is a complete sense of relief and happiness.  Most clients say that after the bankruptcy petition is filed, that they had the most peacefule night of sleep that they have had in a long time.

The first thing you will notice is that all collection activities will cease.  This is accomplished almost immediately upon the filing of the bankruptcy by the triggering of the automatic stay. This means that you won't get those annoying phone calls anymore, and the mail won't be stuffed with collection letters. In fact, you should have a very clear picture of your finances and will be able to start building for the future.

Even wage garnishments and pending lawsuits, with few exceptions, will be stopped and resolved within the bankruptcy. Filing a bankruptcy is one of the few things that you can do that will address almost all of your financial problems and resolve these issues at once.  For more information and specific details regarding the benefits of filing bankruptcy call us for a free consultation.

Bankruptcy can Save Your Home! Our Florida Bankruptcy Attorneys Show You How.

If you are one of the thousands of Floridians facing foreclosure, you have more than likely considered bankruptcy as an avenue of relief. Individuals tend to inquire whether or not filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcies is a way to avoid losing their property.  Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy contain powerful tools that can help you save your home.  Please read below to learn more and take advantage the free consultation our office offers.  You can speak to an experienced bankruptcy attorney, normally the same day you call. Call 813-289-7574 

Filing Bankruptcy halts the foreclosure process!

The first thing a bankruptcy filing accomplishes is to stop the foreclosure process. Lenders can't foreclose or even try to collect debt until permitted to do so by the bankruptcy court. Although many people think of bankruptcy as losing everything they own it actually can be used to keep everything you own.  Take this opportunity to speak to a bankruptcy lawyer about how a bankruptcy may save your home. Call our bankruptcy attorney at 813-289-7574. 

Advantages of a Chapter 13 Banruptcy.

Many people file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy specifically to stop foreclosure. One advantage of filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is that you are allowed to get caught up on mortgages and even car loans over a the life of the bankruptcy plan. The life of a bankruptcy plan is usually between 36 and 60 months.  Although the bank may allow you to get caught up over time there is no way outside of bankruptcy to force them to allow this option.  If you have found the bank to be uncooperative a Chapter 13 is one way to force their cooperation.

A Chapter 13 bankruptcy may also allow you to lower payments on other secured debt such as car payments or second mortgages, while essentially elimination unsecured debt such as credit cards or medical bills.  This restructuring of your debt may be enough to allow you to keep your home or car and rebuild your finances without losing a thing.

Another advantage of filing a Chapter 13 is the lien strip.  This is a process where you can actually strip the 2nd mortgage or junior liens from your home.  To do this the current value of your home must be less than the amount that you owe on your first mortgage. Most people are not aware of just how much them value of their home has declined.  It is always a good idea to stay up to date as to the value of your home.  A good starting point is, although this is not always accurate it will at least give you a rough idea and may open the door to a lien strip.

The ability to strip a lien (or second mortgage) in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be a huge advantage for borrowers. Homeowners may have, for example, a $200,000 first mortgage balance and another $50,000 on a home equity loan. If the home value has dropped to less than $200,000, the judge could rule that all $50,000 of the second is unsecured. Then, it can be paid off at the same pennies-on-the dollar as other unsecured debt

If you are interested in learning more about a lien strip please call and speak to our bankrutpcy attorney. 813-289-7574

Advantages of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

A Chapter 7 will not directly fix your mortgage, however it may provide you enough relief that you can catch up or afford your mortgage in the future.  A Chapter 7 bankruptcy should get rid of most if not all of your unsecured debt. Credit card bills, medical bills, and personal loans are usually wiped out or discharged in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy leaving you with more money at the end of the month.  There may ways to use this "extra" money that is available after your unsecure debt is discharged to pay your mortgage.

Additionally, like a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the automatic stay will completely halt the foreclosure process.  But remember the bank can and will get relief from teh automatic stay so this is only a temporary solution. Although it does not provide a permanent fix, the filing of a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy can provide immediate relief if you are facing foreclosure.  To learn more about how bankruptcy can save your home call our office for your free consultation.

While there are numerous circumstantial factors that could influence your case one way or the other, bankruptcy can bring foreclosure proceedings to a halt, end harassment from debt collectors, and give borrowers time to make up missed payments and reorganize their finances. In some cases, bankruptcy can also help mortgage borrowers save their homes permanently.

More information about filing a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

More information about filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy FAQs

Should I file Bankruptcy?

A decision to file for bankruptcy should be made only after determining that bankruptcy is the best way to deal with your financial problems and debt. Many factors determine the answer to this question. Some people let their moral obligation to pay their debts dictate their actions.  While this is admirable it is not a trait shared by your creditors. The truth is that you can still pay back your debt if you choose after you file for bankruptcy. However, there is a reason that bankruptcy is a right available by law. A bankruptcy is designed to give you a fresh start and allow you to focus on your future instead of drowning in your past. Contact a bankruptcy lawyer today to explore your options and learn more about the bankruptcy process.

What is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding in which a person who can not pay his or her debts can get a fresh financial start. The right to file for bankruptcy is provided by federal law, and all bankruptcy cases are handled in federal court. Filing bankruptcy immediately stops all of your creditors from seeking to collect debts from you, at least until your debts are sorted out according to the law. With few exceptions, a bankruptcy will get rid of your personal liability on your debts but still protects your financial future.

What should I bring to my first appointment at The Owens Law Firm, P.A.?

If you have been served with foreclosure papers or a foreclosure summons then you should bring these documents. You should also bring your last bill or payment coupon from the mortgage company. You should also determine the current value of your home and be prepared to discuss the history of events that led to this point. By doing this we will be able to gain a complete understanding of your situation and be better prepared to present your customized solution. You are welcome to bring any additional information about your debts or paymet history that you want to discuss.  We will provide you with a thorough analysis of your financial situation and the more detailed information you can provide, the more specific answers we will be able to provide to you at your initial consultaion.  That being said, do not let the lack of documents prevent you from seeking debt relief from our attorneys.  We will still be able to provide you with a debt relief strategy and can help you gather the documents we will need going forward.

Will I lose everything?

Absolutely not.  In fact, in most cases you will be able to keep everything you own.  In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy you are allowed to keep all of your exempt assets.  These exemptions are determined by the length of time you have been in Florida.  Assuming that you are using Florida exemptions you and your filing spouse have  exemptions of $1,000 in personal property and $1,000 in a vehicle exemption.  If you do not own a home or are surrendering your home you both qualify for an additional $4,000 exemption towards personal property. However, as you can see these exemptions are rather small so it is very important to seek advice from an experienced bankruptcy lawyer.

If you have significant assets or are concerned about losing particular property a Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be your best option.  In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy you are allowed to keep all of your property but you will be required to pay to unsecured creditors the amount that you would have paid if your non-exempt property was liquidated in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Additionally, there are powerful tools available in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy that may allow you to save your home from a foreclosure, strip off a second mortgage, or even modify your current mortgage.  Often you can do all of this and still eliminate your debt!

To discuss how the bankruptcy process can help you keep your property please contact our bankruptcy attorney.

Can I file bankruptcy and keep my house?

Yes, you can file bankruptcy and keep your house.  In fact, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy has powerful tools that often times make it easier to keep your home.

If you have two mortgages on your home, and the current value of the home is less than the amount that you owe on your first mortgage, you may strip your second mortgage.  This means that by filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy you may be able to get rid of your second mortgage altogether.

Even if you don't have a second mortgage, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can force your mortgage company to begin taking payments again, and also may provide the opportunity to negotiate a loan modification or even a principal reduction.

Can I file bankruptcy without my spouse?

Yes, you can file bankruptcy without your spouse.  In most situations it is better for both spouses to file for bankruptcy relief but it is not required by law.  The decision to file without your spouse is one that should be considered with the assistance of an experienced bankruptcy attorney.  The cost of filing jointly is the same as filing as an individual.  If you have questions about protecting one spouse's credit, how bankruptcy may affect the non-filing spouse, and how your spouse's income may effect the bankruptcy, please contact our bankruptcy attorney.

Can I file bankruptcy without an attorney?

Yes, you can file bankruptcy without an attorney.  However, it is rarely a good idea.  In the same way you can fix your transmission without a mechanic, file complicated tax returns without an accountant, or fix broken bathroom pipes without a plumber, the better question is should you file a bankruptcy without an attorney.

Most attorneys offer a free consultation so you should at least speak to a bankruptcy attorney before you decide if filing bankruptcy without an attorney is right for you.

Who will know that I filed bankruptcy?

Unless someone looks specifically for you in the bankruptcy records, the answer is no one.  Although, bankruptcy filings are public record, these records are not plastered in the local paper or listed in a place that people would accidentally find out. 

Will filing bankruptcy stop the phone calls?

Yes, one of the immediate benefits of filing bankruptcy is contained in the automatic stay.  In basic terms this means that all collection activities and lawsuits must stop immediately.  This includes the phone calls and nasty letters you may have been receiving from debt collectors.  In fact, the attorneys at The Owens Law Firm, P.A., will provide you with a strategy that can immediately stop the harassing phone calls from debt collectors even if you never file for bankruptcy.

How will bankruptcy effect my credit score?

Your credit score is a complicated number to predict.  Many things go into your credit score including the filing of  a bankruptcy. While a bankruptcy does immediately affect your credit score it oftentimes will actually improve your credit score down the road. Although a bankruptcy may damage your credit immediately, it also discharges much if not all of your debt which results in a much improved debt to income ratio.  The bankruptcy should also fix many of the problems that caused you to fall behind on payments in the first place. Once most of your debt has been eliminated your focus and finances can be spent on building your credit and savings.  As such, you will have little to no debt and be able to pay your bills with greater ease, both of which are major factors in building your credit score.

Will I ever be able to buy a house?

Yes. Just like anything else the ultimate answer relies upon the specific creditor but there is nothing that legally prevents you from buying a new home.  In fact, the recent financial meltdown has created a new normal when it comes to credit and loans.  Many people find they qualify for traditional loans in a short time after filing bankruptcy, while others choose to finance through a more untraditional methods such as lease purchase options.  No matter which path you choose a bankruptcy is not a bar to home ownership.  If you have specific questions about bankruptcy and the ability to buy a home in the future contact our bankruptcy lawyers to discuss this issue.  This is a specific area of concern and the actions you take today to deal with your debt will affect your ability to buy a home in the future.  Our lawyers will help you develeop a specific action plan to address all of your concerns both now and in the future.

Will I ever be able to buy a car?

Yes, you will be able to buy a car after you file bankruptcy.  In fact, there is nothing prevents you from buying a car immediately after filing bankruptcy.  The ability to buy a car depends on many factors of which bankruptcy is only one.  Remember millions of people have recently filed bankruptcy and you haven't noticed traffic getting any better have you?  We can help you find companies that specialize in helping people that have filed bankruptcy buy a car, and show you ways to help rebuild your credit afer your debts are discharged through bankruptcy.

Can filing bankruptcy help save my home?

Often times the answer is yes. There is no way to answer this question accurately without having a complete financial picture, however a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a powerful tool for people that want to keep their property and can show enough income to make a mortgage payment. To discuss your options please contact us to schedule your free initial consultation.

What property can I keep if I file bankruptcy?

In a Chapter 7 case, you can keep all the property which the law says is “exempt” from the claims of your creditors. It is important to check the exemptions available in the state where you live. NOTE: If you moved to your current state from a different state within two years of your bankruptcy filing, you may be required to use the exemptions from the state where you lived before.  Most people that file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy are able to keep all of their belongings. This is an important area to seek the advice of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, otherwise you risk losing assets that may have otherwise been protected with the right strategy.

Life After Bankruptcy: Better than you think

Life after bankruptcy should be one of comfort and peace.  Think about the stress that your debts have caused you during the last few months or years of your life, now imagine those debts have vanished and you can focus on your future with a clean slate.  Being debt free is a liberating feeling and will allow you to rebuild your financial health.

The Effect of Bankruptcy on Your Credit:

Not Bad!

Many people get hung up on a piece of paper or computer entry called a credit score.  However, one must not lose sight of the big picture, which is your net worth is more important than your credit score.  Although a bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to ten years, this does not mean that your credit will be ruined for ten years. In truth the effect of a bankruptcy on your credit is unpredictable and depends on a wide variety of factors.

For most people your credit score shoud not be a factor in deciding to file a bankruptcy.  If you are seriously delinquent on a number of debts your credit score will already be low.  A bankruptcy is unlikely to make things worse.

In fact, there is evidence that the filing of a bankruptcy may actually help you grow your credit score.  You are actually one of the safest credit risks around.  Your debt to income ratio is now almost perfect as you will have discharged most, if not all, of your debts.  Moreover, creditors will know that you cannot file bankrtupcy again for a significant period of time.

Although a bankruptcy will affect your ability to get a conventional mortgageg for a period of 2-4 years, most lenders will not hold a bankrtuptcy against you after that.  In short, with proper planning you will be able to obtain a mortgage even after you file bankruptcy.

Your ability to buy big ticket items such as a car or obtain revolving credit, such as credit cards, may suffer in the short term after filing a bankruptcy but shouldn't hurt you in the long run. The filing of a bankruptcy has a temporary affect that can be minimized with proper planning and a solid rebuilding strategy.  We find that many people are able to purchase a vehicle almost immediately after filing bankruptcy although it does take a bit more leg work.  The same time table often applies to credit card offers with some debtors receiving offers of credit within weeks after receiving their discharge.  We can provide you with a specific credit rebuilding program designed to fit your individual needs.

In fact, we find that we are more concerned with our clients receiving easy credit shortly after bankruptcy and falling back in to debt than we are about people not being able to get credit.

Our bankruptcy attorney will help you plan your financial future every step of the way and in doing so we help you get a head start on the road to recovery.

Bankruptcy Solutions from The Owens Law Firm.

Although millions of Americans have resorted to bankruptcy to find relief from these devastating economic times -- including some of the most rich and powerful -- most people still feel uneasy when they first consider it for themselves. You should not.

Most of the time, we know that the financial distress facing you is not your fault and often could not have been prevented. That is why bankruptcy laws were created.  So that good people could find relief from situations beyond their control, get out from underneath the mountain of debt burying them and start a new life.

These laws are not meant to only help people like Harry S. Truman or E. Howard Hunt or Larry King or Gloria Vanderbilt (although you may feel just a bit better knowing people like these, too, have faced tough times and even gone broke). Our laws are meant to help each and every American find a responsible, reasonable way to deal with financial adversity, survive debt and restore their financial stability.

What it is Bankruptcy – Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding in which a person who cannot pay his or her bills can get a fresh financial start. The right to file for bankruptcy is provided by federal law, and all bankruptcy cases are handled in federal court. Filing bankruptcy immediately stops all of your creditors from seeking to collect debts from you, at least until your debts are sorted out according to the law. It will stop all creditor calls, collections activities and harassments, wage and paycheck garnishment, repossession of your car or other personal property, postpone or stop foreclosure on your home, and eliminate all or most of your debts. It will also restore or prevent termination of utility services and allow you to challenge the claims of creditors who have committed fraud or who are otherwise trying to collect more than you really owe.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy-(Straight Bankruptcy). The basic idea in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is to wipe out (discharge) your debts in exchange for you giving up your non-exempt property to be sold, with the money distributed to your creditors. In most cases, all of your property will be exempt.

If you want to keep property like your home or car and are behind on mortgage or car payments, Chapter 7 will probably not be the right choice for you since it does not eliminate the right of mortgage holders or creditors to take your property.

If you income is above the median family income in your state, you may have to file a Chapter 13 case. The national median family income for a family of four in 2009 was about $69,000. If your income is higher than this, you must fill out “means test” form with detailed information about your income and expenses. Based on this information, if you have enough income left over that could be paid to unsecured creditors, the bankruptcy court may decide that you cannot file a Chapter 7 case unless there are special extenuating circumstances.

A chapter 7 bankruptcy will cancel most if not all of your debts but you may have to let the bankruptcy court or trustee's office sell some of your property for the benefit of your creditors. However, most people do not have a lot of non exempt property and can therefore keep all of their property and still receive the benefits of the bankruptcy discharge. We will perform an analysis on the property that you have and any property that you wish to keep and explain to you if this property would be exposed by filing a bankruptcy.

Even if you otherwise qualified a bankruptcy court may dismiss your case if it thinks you've tried to cheat your creditors or conceal assets. Red flags typically occur when you transfer assets to friends or relatives, run up debts immediately before filing, concealing property or money and generally being untruthful or deceptive in any filing with the court.

Chapter 13 (Reorganization). You should consider filing a Chapter 13 plan if you 1) own your own home and are in danger of losing it because of money problems; 2) are behind on debt payments, but can catch up if given some time; 3) have valuable property which is not exempt, but you can afford to pay creditors from your income over time.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, you file a plan showing how you will pay off some of your past-due and current debts over three to five years. The most important thing is that a Chapter 13 case lets you keep your home, car and other valuable property if you can make the required payments. In most cases, these payments will be at least as much as your regular monthly payments on your mortgage or car loan, with extra payments to catch up on the amount you have fallen behind.

There is a debt limit when filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Currently you do not qualify for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy if your secured debts exceed $1,010.65 or your unsecured debts exceed more than $336,900. Additionally you must be current on your income tax filings. You will need to provide proof that you have filed income taxes for the previous four years. You will also be required to provide a copy of your tax return to the trustee during the life of your plan. You must also show that you will pay all required debts within the plan period. If your current monthly income less reasonable living expenses won't allow you to pay off those debts within the plan period than the courts will not confirm your plan.

Priority debts must be paid in full in order to receive a discharge in a chapter 13 case. A priority debt is an unsecured debt that is considered important enough to take priority over your other debts. For example back taxes and child support arrearages are generally considered to be priority debts and thus must be paid in full within the plan period. For secured debts you must show that you will be able to keep current on the secured debt payments. For example if you are keeping your home you must be a little show that you were able to make your current mortgage payments. If you have fallen behind in your mortgage payment you will also be required to show that you will be able to cure arrearages within the plan period.

A Chapter 13 plan usually last for 36 months or 60 months. The length is determined by your current monthly income as compared to the applicable median income. If your income is less than the state median income, you may propose a 36 month plan. If your income is greater than the median then you must propose a 60 month plan.

 What property can I keep? In a Chapter 7 case, you can keep all the property which the law says is “exempt” from the claims of your creditors. It is important to check the exemptions available in the state where you live. NOTE: If you moved to your current state from a different state within two years of your bankruptcy filing, you may be required to use the exemptions from the state where you lived before. In some states, you have a choice between using either the state exemptions or the federal bankruptcy exemptions. But if your state has “opted out” of the federal bankruptcy exemptions, you will be required to choose most of the exemptions under your state’s laws. Even in an “opt out” state, however, you may use a special federal bankruptcy exemption that protects retirement funds in pension plans and IRAs. *Florida has “opted out” of the federal exemptions.

When determining whether your property is exempt, you must remember that the value of your property is not what you paid for it, but what it is worth at the time you file bankruptcy. Especially for furniture and cars, this may be much less than what you paid or their replacement cost. Remember that only the equity in your property counts. For example, if you own a $50,000 house with a $40,000 mortgage, you only have $10,000 in equity. *You can fully protect your $50,000 home with a $10,000 exemption. While your exemptions let you keep property even in a Chapter 7 case, your exemptions do not prevent a mortgage holder or car loan creditor from taking your property to cover the debt if you are behind. In a Chapter 13 case, you can keep all your property if your plan meets the requirements of the bankruptcy law. In most cases, you will have to pay the mortgages or liens just as you would if you had not filed bankruptcy.

What will happen to my home and car? Usually you will not lose your home or car during your bankruptcy case as long as your equity in the property is fully exempt. Even if your property is not fully exempt, you will be able to keep it if you pay its non-exempt value to creditors in Chapter 13. However, if some of your creditors have a “security interest” in your home, automobile or other personal property – i.e. if you gave them a mortgage on your home or put your other property up as collateral for a debt – bankruptcy will not make their interests go away. If you do not make payments on that debt, these creditors may be able to take your home or property to sell during or after the bankruptcy case.

In a Chapter 13 case, you may be able to keep some of your secured property by paying the value of the property rather than the full amount owed on the debt. Or you can use Chapter 13 to catch up on back payments and get current on your loans.

There are also several ways that you can keep collateral or mortgaged property after you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You can agree to keep making your payments until the debt is paid off in full. Or you can pay the creditor the amount that the property is worth. In some cases that involve fraud or other improper conduct by the creditor, you may be able to challenge the debt. If you put up your household goods as collateral for a loan (other than a loan to purchase these goods), you can usually keep your property without making any more payments on that debt.

Can I own anything after bankruptcy? Absolutely. You can keep your exempt property and anything you obtain after your bankruptcy is filed. However, if you receive an inheritance, a property settlement or life insurance benefits with 180 days after filing, that money or property may have to be paid to your creditors if it is not exempt.

Will bankruptcy wipe out all my debts? Bankruptcy will wipe out the majority of your debts. But there are exceptions, including: money owed for child support or alimony; most fines and penalties owed to government agencies; most taxes and debts incurred to pay taxes which cannot be discharged; student loans unless you can prove to the court that repaying them will be an “undue hardship”; debts not listed on your bankruptcy petition; loans you obtained by knowingly giving false information to a creditor; debts incurred by driving while intoxicated; mortgages and other liens which are not paid in the bankruptcy case (but bankruptcy will wipe out your obligation to pay any additional money if the property is sold by creditors).

Will I have to go to court? In most bankruptcy cases, you only have to go to a proceeding called the “meeting of the creditors” to meet with the bankruptcy trustee and any creditors who choose to come. Usually these meetings are a short and simple procedure. If complications arise, or if you choose to dispute a debt, you may have to appear before a judge at a hearing. In this case, you will receive notice of the court date and time from the court and/or from your attorney.

Will bankruptcy affect my credit? If you are behind on your bills, your credit may already be bad. Bankruptcy will probably not make things any worse. Although the fact that you filed for bankruptcy can appear on your credit report for 10 years, because bankruptcy wipes out your old debts you are likely to be in a better position to pay your current bills and able to get new credit.

NOTE: If you do file bankruptcy, remember that debts discharged should be listed on your credit report as having a zero balance. You should check your credit report after your bankruptcy discharge and file a dispute with credit reporting agencies if this information is incorrect.

What else should I know? Utilities cannot refuse or cut off service because you file for bankruptcy. But they can require a deposit for future service and you do have to pay bills after you have filed bankruptcy. An employer or government agency cannot discriminate against you because you filed for bankruptcy. Neither can agencies involved in student loan programs. If you lost your driver’s license solely because you couldn’t pay court-ordered damages caused in an accident, bankruptcy will allow you to get your license back. If someone has co-signed a loan with you, the co-signer may have to pay your debt. (If you file a Chapter 13, you may be able to protect your co-signers.)


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