Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyer Tampa, FL
If you are struggling to keep up with your monthly expenses due to overwhelming amounts of debt, the idea of filing for bankruptcy most likely has crossed your mind and you should contact a Tampa, FL Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer now. Should you reach the determination that bankruptcy is the most appropriate option, you will need to make a number of decisions. Although you may choose to pursue bankruptcy pro se (without a lawyer), it may be a good idea to have legal counsel. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer in Tampa, Florida can be invaluable in providing you with guidance in order to determine the best strategy moving forward. When considering bankruptcy, take the time to properly research attorneys in your area so that you are able to find a professional who is experienced with bankruptcy proceedings. The Law Office of Michael A. Ziegler, P.L. has extensive experience with Chapter 7 bankruptcy and would be happy to speak with you.
Bankruptcy is a debt relief option for those who want to get their financial life back on track. It is a form of federal protection that protects people in debt from being harassed from creditors and from living underneath the weight of crushing debt with no solution in sight. Chapter 7 is known as liquidation bankruptcy, as this process can lead to the elimination of eligible debts in as few as 90 days.
Are all kinds of debts erased with Chapter 7?
Unfortunately, no. While the majority of debts, including those from out of state can be eliminated by the Court, some debts (including federal student loans, except under truly extreme circumstances) can’t be discharged. A consultation with an experienced Tampa, FL Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer will help you figure out what to expect if you choose Chapter 7 as your route to debt relief.
What is a trustee?
In Chapter 7 cases, a trustee is named as the person to act on behalf of the court. They will be the ones to gather any non-exempt assets you may have, sell them, and pay your creditors with the money resulting from the sale. Trustees are also important because they ensure the entire bankruptcy process is done correctly and efficiently. If you’re concerned about losing your property during the bankruptcy process, know that most low-income filers are able to keep most, if not all of their property safe from this risk. An experienced Tampa, FL Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer can explain when an asset may be too valuable to be considered exempt by the Court.
What are some exempt assets?
Even though each state has different rules on what is included during the asset exemption process, typically the properties you can keep are a mix of:
- Vehicles, up to a specific value
- Primary homes, up to a specific value
- Household appliances
- Reasonable household furnishings
- Clothing, up to a certain amount
- Tools of your trade — for example if you are a contractor you can keep all the items necessary for your work
- Public benefits such as social security, unemployment, and food aid
What Are the Steps in Filing For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
When you decide that filing for bankruptcy is right for you, you may not have a plan much farther laid out than that. While this is a helpful first step, there are different options to choose from when it comes to filing for bankruptcy and timing can be key. It is important to remember that this is a huge step for you financially and likely emotionally. We know that this can seem very overwhelming, but we are here to get you back on your feet and show you how to take better care of yourself financially. Below, we walk you through some of the steps you can expect if you choose to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Steps For Filing For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
- Eligibility. When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it is in the hands of the court, not you or your attorney. Two of the big things the court will look at are your financial records and how much money you are bringing in. Depending on how much you bring in, you may be able to establish some kind of monthly repayment plan, in which case Chapter 7 may not be right for you. It typically comes down to whether you can make specific amounts of payments to creditors.
- Credit Counseling. Many people have not heard of this as one of the steps to take when they need to prepare for bankruptcy. However, it is important that you take a credit counseling class from an approved agency after you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You can do this online or over the phone.
- The Automatic Stay. One of the most useful parts of filing for bankruptcy is the automatic stay a court can put in place. When you successfully file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay can ensure that creditors no longer call to harass you about collecting on their debts. While this does not necessarily work with all creditors, it will work with most.
- The Creditors. There is a meeting of creditors that your bankruptcy trustee will conduct where the trustee will ask you certain questions to verify your identity and financial records. Creditors may or may not appear to ask you questions.
- Exempt Property. Some property (exempt property) you can keep. However, your trustee will sell other unprotected assets so that you can pay back your creditors.
- Discharge. When you have completed all requirements as outlined by the court, your automatic stay will be lifted. The discharge states what kind of debt you still have after filing for bankruptcy, including things like student loans or child support.
Who can file for Chapter 7?
While any person who has citizenship, has property in, and does business in the United States can file for Chapter 7, it is recommended that only those who have substantial debts and not enough steady income file for Chapter 7. Chapter 7 is seen as a very drastic measure as your property will be taken away from you, so if you have adequate income, a Tampa, Florida Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer may suggest you file for the repayment plan of Chapter 13.
Filing for bankruptcy can be confusing, but you don’t have to feel overwhelmed if you work with an experienced Tampa, Florida Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer at The Law Office of Michael A. Ziegler, P.L. Do not hesitate to set up a consultation with us today to learn more about your debt relief options and how we can support the option that makes most sense in your situation.
Should You File for Bankruptcy Pro Se?
For a number of debt sufferers seeking bankruptcy, filing for bankruptcy “pro se” or, on their own can seem like the least expensive and most straight forward option. After all, with such a wealth of information on the internet, how hard can it possibly be? When people are already drowning in debt, the last thing they want to do is incur more expenses when pursuing bankruptcy by retaining an attorney. Engaging in bankruptcy proceedings pro se may result in a number of problems:
- Filing for the wrong chapter
- Not being completely educated prior to pursuing bankruptcy
- Failing to file the appropriate documents
- Not having a clear understanding of exemptions, ultimately risking losing property or assets that you may have been able to retain with an attorney’s help
- Failing to have a clear understanding of bankruptcy proceedings
- Causing greater problems that ultimately result in the need for an attorney
Although in some cases, it may be possible to get through bankruptcy proceedings without an attorney; having legal counsel by your side can ensure that your interests are protected and that the process runs as smoothly as possible.
How a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Lawyer in Tampa, FL Can Help
Bankruptcy attorneys may prove to be invaluable when pursuing bankruptcy. The process can be stressful. When faced with complications to your filing (should they arise), a bankruptcy attorney can strategize, negotiate and protect your interests. There are other ways an attorney can help you when facing bankruptcy, such as:
- Reviewing your case to determine if Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is the right course of action for you.
- Fill out all necessary documents in a timely and accurate way.
- Listen to you regarding your needs and help to develop a strategize that supports your interests.
- Provide you with clear direction regarding bankruptcy law within your state and help determine which of your assets may be exempt from the process.
- To represent you at all required bankruptcy hearings and negotiate with creditors should they dispute your bankruptcy.
In essence, Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyers in Tampa, FL can help by making sure that the bankruptcy process progresses in efficient and effective ways.
Struggling with debt can be an all consuming issue to contend with. Despite efforts to come up with solutions that provide you with alternative options to bankruptcy, you may still find that bankruptcy is the best option for you. Although filing for bankruptcy pro se may be an option, with the assistance of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer in Tampa, FL, you can be assured that you are in the hands of an experienced professional.
What Bankruptcy Vocabulary Should I Know Before Filing?
The process of filing for bankruptcy is relatively straightforward. However, it can initially seem intimidating and inaccessible, partially because there is a lot of misinformation published on the subject of bankruptcy and partially because the vocabulary of the bankruptcy process is unfamiliar to most Americans. Meeting with an experienced Tampa, Florida Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer from The Law Office of Michael A. Ziegler, P.L. can help to ensure that your understanding of the bankruptcy process is not colored by misinformation. Additionally, working with an experienced Tampa, FL Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer can help you to “unravel” some of the more complex terminology surrounding the bankruptcy process. As you prepare for your initial bankruptcy consultation, consider some of these common bankruptcy terms. If you have any questions about them, your Tampa, FL Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer can discuss them in detail during your initial conversation.
Bankruptcy Vocabulary – The Basics
Asset – Something owned by a debtor
Chapter – The U.S. Bankruptcy Code is broken up into chapters. Each major Chapter of the Code (including 7, 11, and 13) governs a different type of bankruptcy. Most consumers file under Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, while businesses generally file under Chapter 11.
Creditor – Someone who is owed money from a debtor
Debtor – Someone who owes money to a creditor
Injunction – Instructions from the court that prevent someone from taking a specific kind of action
Liability – The debt that is owed by a debtor to a creditor
Lien – A legal claim to possess an asset owned by a debtor until the debtor pays a creditor or otherwise fulfills the terms of a contract or agreement
Liquidation – The process of selling assets so that their value can be converted into cash
Means Test – The process of determining whether someone is eligible to file for bankruptcy (usually in reference to eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy due to income limits on this process imposed by the courts)
Pro se – The process of representing oneself in court without the assistance of an attorney
Legal Assistance Is Available
If you’re interested in filing for bankruptcy, please schedule a risk-free consultation with our firm’s experienced Tampa, FL Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer today. Depending on your particular financial circumstances, it may make the most sense to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, Chapter 13 or even Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. No two households have the same financial challenges, so it’s important to speak with a Tampa, FL Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer before making assumptions about your debt relief situation. What may be right for one household isn’t always the best debt relief pathway forward for another.
Once we learn more about the debt-related challenges that you and your family are facing, we’ll be able to advise you of your options and tailor our guidance and support accordingly. Consultations are always confidential and are no-obligation conversations, so there’s no reason not to come in for a chat. We look forward to meeting with you. Call our trusted Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer Tampa, FL relies on at your earliest convenience.
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