Should I hire an attorney?
The bankruptcy law is complicated. There are numerous forms to be completed and filed in a timely manner. Hearings are held and testimony is taken under-oath. Filing false or misleading documents is a Federal crime. Hiring an attorney that is experienced and knowledgeable in bankruptcy is wise. These can be stressful times and an experienced attorney can alleviate some of your concerns and make the process more efficient. Look at my google reviews. Ask for references. Make the right decision for you and your family.
WHAT IS THE “MEETING OF THE CREDITORS”
After your Bankruptcy Lawyer files your Bankruptcy Petition, a “Meeting of The Creditors” or “341 Meeting” is scheduled with a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Trustee. As a Debtor that has filed a Bankruptcy Petition or a Debtor that has requested a Bankruptcy Lawyer file a Bankruptcy Petition on your behalf, YOU MUST ATTEND THIS MEETING.
At this meeting you will be sworn in and placed under oath by the Bankruptcy Trustee and you have an obligation to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Not telling the truth, while under oath and testifying before a Bankruptcy Trustee, Bankruptcy Judge or any other Bankruptcy Meeting or Hearing is perjury and can be prosecuted as Bankruptcy Fraud.
Bankruptcy Fraud is a serious crime that can result in jail time. PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH WHEN YOU DISCLOSE YOUR ASSETS TO YOUR BANKRUPTCY LAWYER AND WHEN YOU TESTIFY AT ANY BANKRUPTCY HEARING OR MEETINGS.
When your Bankruptcy Petition is completed, and before it is filed, you will sign it under penalty of perjury attesting to its truthfulness and accuracy. Please review your Bankruptcy Petition and make any corrections to any misstatements or include any information omitted which is relevant including, debt owed, assets owned or money earned or due to you.
DISCLOSE, DISCLOSE, DISCLOSE. Keep repeating those words when in Bankruptcy Proceedings or completing Bankruptcy questions or documents. If you have any additional questions or would like additional information on Bankruptcy Fraud, please see the section on my website titled – Bankruptcy Fraud in the FAQ’s section. This will detail what constitutes Bankruptcy Fraud and how to avoid committing Bankruptcy Fraud.
WHY IS IT CALLED A 341 MEETING?
It is called a “341 Meeting” because that is the Section of The United States Bankruptcy Code that requires The United States Trustees Office to schedule the meeting that all Bankruptcy Debtors must attend.
The United States Bankruptcy Code reads in relevant parts as follows: § 341 Meetings of creditors and equity security holders:
(a) Within a reasonable time after the order for relief in a case under this title, the United States Trustee shall convene and preside at a meeting of creditors;
(b) The United States trustee may convene a meeting of any equity security holders;
(c) The court may not preside at, and may not attend, any meeting under this section including any final meeting of creditors. Notwithstanding any local court rule, provision of a State constitution, any otherwise applicable non-bankruptcy law, or any other requirement that representation at the meeting of creditors under subsection (a) be by an attorney, a creditor holding a consumer debt or any representative of the creditor (which may include an entity or an employee of an entity and may be a representative for more than 1 creditor) shall be permitted to appear at and participate in the meeting of creditors in a case under chapter 7 or 13, either alone or in conjunction with an attorney for the creditor. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to require any creditor to be represented by an attorney at any meeting of creditors.
(d) Prior to the conclusion of the meeting of creditors or equity security holders, the trustee shall orally examine the debtor to ensure that the debtor in a case under chapter 7 of this title is aware of— (1) the potential consequences of seeking a discharge in bankruptcy, including the effects on credit history; (2) the debtor’s ability to file a petition under a different chapter of this title; (3) the effect of receiving a discharge of debts under this title; and (4) the effect of reaffirming a debt, including the debtor’s knowledge of the provisions of section 524(d) of this title.
(e) Notwithstanding subsections (a) and (b), the court, on the request of a party in interest and after notice and a hearing, for cause may order that the United States Trustee not convene a meeting of creditors or equity security holders if the debtor has filed a plan as to which the debtor solicited acceptances prior to the commencement of the case.
WHEN SHOULD I EXPECT TO ATTEND THE MEETING?
The Creditors Meeting usually occurs about 30 days after your Bankruptcy Petition is filed. The meeting can be continued if absolutely necessary, such as for medical reasons or other emergencies.
Occasionally, Bankruptcy Debtors are allowed to appear by phone. Usually it is because they are incarcerated or incapacitated for medical reasons. A notary must be present to administer the oath if the Bankruptcy Debtor is appearing by phone. A “Power of Attorney” is not allowed or recognized in lieu of personal appearance by the Debtor.
Bankruptcy Debtor’s must have their Driver’s License (or any other Government issued I.D. with a picture of the Bankruptcy Debtor on it) and a Social Security Card (or some other proof of your SS #, such as a W-2 or other government issued I.D. with your S.S. number displayed). If you do not have the proper I.D. your meeting will be continued.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT TO HAPPEN AT THE MEETING?
A lot of Bankruptcy Debtors are nervous or intimidated about testifying before a Bankruptcy Trustee. Usually there are about six Bankruptcy Cases schedule every 30 minutes. The meeting is typically short and painless, lasting about 5-10 minutes. However, this depends on how well your Bankruptcy Petition was prepared, what you disclosed, and how truthful you were in disclosing all your assets and financial dealings. If you were truthful and disclosed all your assets when the Bankruptcy Petition was being prepared by your bankruptcy Lawyer, then you should have nothing to worry about and your 341 Meeting should go very smoothly.
Please keep in mind, the Creditors Meeting is the opportunity for the Bankruptcy Trustee to ask you questions regarding why you filed for Federal Bankruptcy Protection. The Bankruptcy Trustee will also determine if there are any assets the Debtor owns which can be auctioned off as part of the Bankruptcy Estate to pay any creditors.
For more information about how, when and why Trustees take assets and auction them off, or what you can do to avoid losing your assets, please review the Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions section of my FAQ’s section of my website.
WHAT QUESTIONS WILL THE TRUSTEE ASK ME?
Usually the Bankruptcy Trustee will ask you the following questions:
1) State you name, address and telephone number for the record;
2) Then you will hand the Trustee your driver’s license and S.S. card and they will state – “I have reviewed the driver’s license (or other acceptable I.D.) and original Social Security card (or other acceptable document used as proof of S.S. number) and they match the name and Social Security number on the Bankruptcy Petition and 341 Meeting Notice;
3) Did you sign the petition, schedules, statements and related documents, and is the signature your own?
4) Did you read the petition, schedules, statements and related documents before you signed them?
5) Are you personally familiar with the information contained in the petition, schedules, statements and related documents?
6) To the best of your knowledge, is the information contained in the petition, schedules, statements and related documents true and correct?
7) Are there any errors or omissions to bring to my attention at this time?
8) Are all of your assets identified on the schedules?
9) Have you listed all of your creditors on the schedules?
10) Have you previously filed bankruptcy? (If so, the trustee must obtain the case number and the discharge information to determine the debtor(s) discharge eligibility.)
11) Is the copy of the tax return you provided a true copy of the most recent tax return you filed?
12) Do you have a domestic support obligation? If so, to whom?
13) Please provide to me the claimant’s address and telephone number, but do not state it on the record.
14) Have you read the Bankruptcy Information Sheet provided by the United States Trustee?
15) Do you own or have any interest whatsoever in any real estate?
16) Have you made any transfers of any property or given any property away within the last one year period (or such longer period as applicable under state law)?
17) If yes: What did you transfer? To whom was it transferred? What did you receive in exchange? What did you do with the funds?
18) Do you have a claim against anyone or any business?
19) Are you entitled to life insurance proceeds or an inheritance as a result of someone’s death? Does anyone owe you money?
20) Have you made any large payments, over $600, to anyone in the past year?
21) Were federal income tax returns filed on a timely basis? When was the last return filed?
22) At the time of the filing of your petition, were you entitled to a tax refund from the federal or state government?
23) Have you been engaged in any business during the last six years?
WHAT ASSETS MAY I KEEP?
It is possible to keep all your assets. It all depends on the exemptions you claim, the outstanding loans, whether you’re current on your secured loan payments (i.e. car or house), what Chapter you file under (7 vs. 13), and what financial instruments your money is placed in. I have devoted a different section to answering this question.
Please review the section of my Bankruptcy Website that explains the Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions a Debtor is allowed to claim.
It is very important to understand what is exempt: Meaning you get to keep after your Bankruptcy Discharge Order has been entered by the Federal Bankruptcy Judge and your Bankruptcy Case has been closed. Florida and Federal Bankruptcy Law, Statutes, Codes, Regulations and Case Law are very specific regarding what Bankruptcy Exemptions you can apply and what you cannot.
HOW DO I KNOW WHO MY TRUSTEE WILL BE?
The Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustees are assigned to cases at random by the Bankruptcy Court. A list of Trustees and their addresses can be found at – https://www.justice.gov/ust/eo/private_trustee/locator/7.htm#mfl.
Every Bankruptcy Trustee is different and each has their own requirements regarding documents that Bankruptcy Debtors or their Bankruptcy Lawyers need to provide before the Creditors Meeting. Your Bankruptcy attorney can advise you what documents must be provided to The Bankruptcy Trustee or to the United States Bankruptcy Trustees Office.
Typically the documents Bankruptcy Debtors must provide are:
1) Six months of paystubs;
2) Six months of bank statements;
3) Copies of any lawsuits filed or pending in the last year;
4) Copies of any divorce decrees in the past 4 years;
5) Registration, Proof of Insurance and Copies of any Titles to any vehicles including, but not limited to motorcycles, cars, boats, ATV’s, RV’s etc.. If the vehicle was registered in Florida you can go to https://www.flhsmv.gov/ and obtain a copy of your title or registration;
6) Three years of income tax returns assuming the bankruptcy debtor had to file income tax returns. If a Bankruptcy Debtor was not required to file taxes, then your Bankruptcy Lawyer can complete an affidavit stating that you did not have to file taxes. If you do not have a copy of your tax returns they can be obtained from: https://www.irs.gov/ or you can pick a copy of them up at your local I.R.S. office.
For Duval County and the surrounding areas the I.R.S. office is located at: 400 W. Bay St., Jacksonville, Florida 32202.
did not, you will not receive a Bankruptcy Discharge Order from the Bankruptcy Judge until you have filed taxes for all years required.
The Federal Bankruptcy Trustees Office and the Federal Bankruptcy Judges have taken the position that if you are going to utilize the Federal Government and their laws to discharge your debt, you must have abided by their laws with respect submission of income taxes.
I.R.S. or Federal Taxes that are due are considered a “priority debt”. Meaning, they must be paid first before any other non-priority debt is paid. This is extremely important if a bankruptcy Trustee recovers assets from a Debtors Bankruptcy Estate. It is imperative a Bankruptcy Debtor disclose to their Bankruptcy Lawyer any taxes for any years you may owe. Some taxes, including I.R.S. taxes are dischargeable. Please review the FAQ’s section of my Bankruptcy Website to learn more about what taxes you can discharge in the Bankruptcy process.
At The Law Office of Tony Turner we gather the required documents on your behalf and submit them to the Bankruptcy Trustee. Sometimes these documents can be submitted electronically and sometimes they are sent by the United States Postal Service. But it is imperative that the requested Bankruptcy Documents be submitted before your creditors meeting. If not, the Bankruptcy Trustee can continue or cancelled the Creditors Meeting. Please be mindful that if the documents are not submitted your case can be dismissed.
WHEN WILL I GET MY DISCHARGE ORDER?
Approximately 60 days after your creditors meeting you will receive a Discharge Order entered by the Bankruptcy Judge. Your Bankruptcy Lawyer will be emailed a copy of your Order from the United States Bankruptcy Court. This is typically the end of your case. If you ever lose your Bankruptcy Order and need a copy your Bankruptcy Lawyer can obtain a copy for you or you can go to https://pacer.login.uscourts.gov and obtain a copy of your entire Bankruptcy Petition, including the Discharge Order.
WHERE IS THE 341 MEETING IS HELD?The meeting is held at the Federal Courthouse. The location or address of the Federal Courthouse depends on the county you resided in at the time your Bankruptcy Petition is filed.
THERE ARE 3 BANKRUPTCY DIVISIONS IN FLORIDA
The State of Florida is divided into 3 sections for Bankruptcy filing purposes: http://www.flmb.uscourts.gov/counties/
1) The United States Bankruptcy Court for The Northern District of Florida;
2) The United States Bankruptcy Court for The Middle District of Florida Middle; http://www.flmb.uscourts.gov/
3) The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida;
THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA’s HEARINGS ARE HELD IN JACKSONVILLE
For the following Counties in Florida the “Creditors Meeting” will be held at: The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida at 300 North Hogan Street, Suite 1200, Jacksonville, Florida 32202:• BAKER COUNTY – MacClenny (County Seat), Glen St. Mary.
County Website – http://www.bakercountyfl.org/
• BRADFORD COUNTY – Starke (County Seat), Lawtey, Hampton, Brooker.
County Website – https://www.bradfordcountyfl.gov/
• CITRUS COUNTY – Beverly Hills, Black Diamond, Citrus Hills, Citrus Springs, Crystal River, Floral City, Hernando, Homosassa Springs, Homosassa, Inverness (County Seat), Lecanto, Pine Ridge, Sugarmill Woods.
County Website – https://www.citrusclerk.org/
• CLAY COUNTY – Doctors Inlet, Fleming Island, Green Cove Springs (County Seat), Keystone Heights, Lake Geneva, Middleburg, Orange Park, Penney Farms.
County Website – https://www.claycountygov.com/
• COLUMBIA COUNTY – Lake City (County Seat), Fort White, Five Points, Watertown.
County Website – http://www.columbiacountyfla.com/
• DUVAL COUNTY – Jacksonville (County Seat), Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Baldwin.
Websites for Each City:
Atlantic Beach – http://www.ci.atlantic-beach.fl.us/
Jacksonville – http://www.coj.net/
Jacksonville Beach – http://www.jacksonvillebeach.org/
Neptune Beach- http://www.ci.neptune-beach.fl.us/
• FLAGER COUNTY – Beverly Beach, Bunnell (County Seat), Flagler Beach, Marineland, Palm Coast.
County Website – http://www.flaglercounty.org/government/municipalities.php
• HAMILTON COUNTY – Jasper (County Seat), Jennings, White Springs.
County Website – https://hamiltoncountyfl.com/
• MARION COUNTY – Anthony, Belleview, Candler, Citra, Dunnellon, Eastlake Weir, Fairfield, Fort McCoy, Lowell, McIntosh, Ocala (County Seat), Ocklawaha, Orange Lake, Orange Springs, Reddick, Silver Springs, Sparr, Summerfield, Weirsdale.
County Website – https://www.marioncountyfl.org
• NASSAU COUNTY – Callahan, Fernandina Beach (County Seat), Hilliard, Yulee.
County Website – https://www.nassaucountyfl.com
• PUTNAM COUNTY – Bostwick, Crescent City, East Palatka, Edgar, Florahome, Georgetown, Grandin, Hollister, Interlachen, Lake Como, Melrose, Palatka (County Seat), Pomona Park, Putnam Hall, San Mateo, Satsuma, Welaka.
County Website – http://clerk.putnam-fl.com/
• SAINT JOHNS – Crescent Beach, Elkton, Fort Matanzas, Fruit Cove, Hastings, Marineland, Palm Valley, Ponte Vedra, Ponte Vedra Beach, St. Augustine (County Seat), St. Augustine Beach, St. Augustine Shores, Switzerland, Vilano Beach
County Website – https://stjohnsclerk.com
• SUMTER – Bushnell (County Seat), Webster, Center Hill, Wildwood, Coleman, The Villages.
County Website – www.sumterclerk.com/
• SUWANNEE – Branford, Live Oak (County Seat, McAlpin, O’Brian, Wellborn.
County Website – www.suwguv.org/
• UNION – Lake Butler (County Seat), Raiford, Worthington Springs.
County Website – www.unionclerk.com/
Can I get a free copy of my credit report?
YES! Go to www.annualcreditreport.com for a free copy.
Can I file bankruptcy?
Probably. There are rules and regulations with respect to who can file and what Chapter they can file under. An experienced bankruptcy attorney should know the answer. If you have filed a Chapter 7 in the past, you will need to wait 8 years from the date you filed to receive another Chapter 7 discharge.
Can I file without my spouse filing?
Yes. A husband and wife need not file together. However, if one spouse is filing the non-filings spouse’s information will need to be obtained. Personal information must be obtained such as income, employer, and residency. If the spouses are in the process of getting a divorce this becomes problematic but not a barrier to filing.
What happens after I file?
An “Automatic Stay” takes effect. All lawsuits, debt collection attempts, phone calls from creditors, garnishment withholdings, foreclosures proceedings and the like MUST STOP. If a debt collector violates this automatic stay they may be sanctioned under the Fair Debt Collections Act and/or the Florida Fair Debt Collections Act.
You must attend a “Creditors Meeting” also called a 341 meeting. In all bankruptcy cases a trustee is appointed by the court to review the case. The Trustee’s role is to determine if there are any assets available to liquidate. All debtors must attend this meeting.
You should receive a “Discharge Order” approximately 90 days after filing your bankruptcy petition. This Discharge Order eliminates your liability or obligation to pay the eligible debt. There should be no further collection attempts from any of your discharged debt.
Can I keep my home?
Many clients chose to keep their home. Some chose to “surrender” their home and owe nothing to the creditor. What is right for you may depend on whether you have equity in the home. Some clients elect to participate in a “Mortgage Mediation” in an attempt to reduce their principle, payments and interest. Sometimes, banks have “forgiven” arrearages. There are many options to discuss including possible stripping or discharging a 2nd mortgage.
What about my retirement account?
Most retirement accounts are exempt meaning you keep all of the proceeds. However, do not cash in your retirement account before filing bankruptcy. There could be dire consequences like you losing these funds to the Trustee and your creditors.
The following types of pensions and retirement funds are exempt in Florida:
ERISA qualified retirement plans and pensions (including 401(k)’s, 403(b)’s, profit sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRA’s, and other defined benefit plans) are fully exempt. (11 U.S.C. Section 522 and Fl. Stat. 222.21.)
IRA’s and Roth IRA’s are exempt up to $1,171,650. (11 U.S.C. Section 522(b)(3)(C)(n).)
Benefits payable under the Florida Retirement System. (Fl. Stat. 121.131.)
State and County officers and employees retirement system benefits. (Fl. Stat. 122.15.)
Firefighter pensions. (Fl. Stat. 175.241.)
Municipal police pensions. (Fl. Stat. 185.25.)
Teachers’ retirement benefits. (Fl. Stat. 238.15.)
Can I keep my life insurance policy?
Yes. You must continue to pay your premiums. The proceeds of a life insurance policy payable to a specific beneficiary are fully exempt. (Fl. Stat. 222.13.) The cash surrender value of a life insurance policy and the proceeds of an annuity contract are fully exempt. (Fl. Stat. 222.14.)
Can I keep my automobile?
You must be current on your payments. Some clients will reaffirm their debt meaning they keep their car and continue to be obligated to pay the debt. Some clients surrender their car meaning they are no longer obligated to pay the debt.
Do I have to List all my assets?
YES! The Federal Bankruptcy Law requires you to list all your assets. You must also value these assets. Typically it is the resale or garage sale value. DO NOT LIE OR HIDE ANY ASSETS! It is a Federal Crime to do so and your bankruptcy may be dismissed.
Will the value of my property be verified?
Possibly. The Trustee has the authority to retain an appraiser to value your property. The larger the estate, the more likely this is to occur.
Can I Sell my assets immediately before filing bankruptcy?
Absolutely not! A trustee has the power to reverse the sale or transfer. DO NOT DISPOSE OF YOUR ASSETS IN AN ATTMEPT TO KEEP THEM OUT OF BANKRUPTCY.
Do I need to give you a list of all my creditors?
It is helpful. However if you retain my office to file your bankruptcy, I will pull a credit report from the three credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion; Equifax and Experian. Most likely this will include the majority of your debt. Some debt is not listed on your credit report. Debt such as: Medical Bills; Cable Bills; Leases; Cell Phone Bills usually do not appear…just to name a few. Before you bankruptcy petition is filed you will review the document with me and will confirm it includes all your debt. You are required by the bankruptcy law to list all your creditors. You will be asked under oath at your creditors meeting by the Trustee if you have listed all your debt. You need to answer truthfully and the answer should be YES.
What if some of my debt is not listed? Is it still discharged?
That depends on your case. If you are a “no asset” case, then YES! A “no asset” case is one where the Trustee does no recover any assets to pay to any creditors. Otherwise, you need to list all of your debt for it to be discharged.
Can there be an objection to my bankruptcy discharge?
Yes. Typically this does not occur. Objections need to be for a valid reason, such as fraud. If you have told the truth, have not concealed or transferred any assets. It more likely than not you will receive a discharge.
What if my wages or bank account is being garnished?
A garnishment can be stopped immediately upon the filing of a bankruptcy. Some of your money may be recovered.
Are “Bad” checks discharged in bankruptcy?
Typically they are dischargeable unless there is fraudulent activity involved.
What happens to co-signers of loans and credit cards?
Unless the co-signer has filed bankruptcy as well, they remain liable for the debt. You filing for bankruptcy has no effect on their liability.
What happens after my bankruptcy discharge?
You will receive offers of credit cards in the mail almost immediately. Although you should take the appropriate steps to rebuild your credit, be careful of becoming over extended. Use this opportunity to start fresh from the burdensome debt.
How long will a bankruptcy remain on my credit report?
Bankruptcy may be listed on your credit report for 10 years. Even though you have a bankruptcy listed on your credit report you should be able to obtain loans for cars or houses if needed. Be careful of high interest rates and bad terms. Some creditors prey on individuals who have recently received a bankruptcy discharge.
TOP REASONS PEOPLE FILE BANKRUPTCY:
- Credit Card Debt. A Chapter 7 can eliminate most credit card debt in approximately 90 days from start to finish.
- Foreclosure . Once the bankruptcy petition is filed usually the sale of a home stops. An exception maybe if a debtor has had a prior case dismissed. You should contact an experienced bankruptcy lawyer if you have any questions or if your home is being foreclosed upon.
- Repossession. Once a bankruptcy petition is filed any effort to repossess your automobile must stop. Typically my clients have a window of about 4 months to use that automobile during bankruptcy before having to surrender it to the lien holder.
- Wage Garnishment from lawsuits that have been file for delinquent debt owed. Once a bankruptcy petition is filed any wage garnishment must stop. The debt is then discharged through the bankruptcy process.
- I.R.S. debt. Believe it or not!!!!!! Some I.R.S. debt can be discharged.
- Medical Bills.
- Divorce – Even though your ex was responsible or ordered to pay the outstanding debt, if they do not, you can and probably will be sued. Bankruptcy can eliminate this debt.
- Death of a spouse. Unfortunately when a spouse dies their income is eliminated from the household, but the bills remain the same. Bankruptcy eliminates the debt so the surviving spouse can heal and recover financially.
CALL ME TODAY FOR A FREE BANKRUPTCY CONSULTATION.