Bankruptcy can be a scary process to navigate, especially if you’re not sure what to expect. Those who have never filed before or known someone who has may be worried about how long the process will take or how they’ll keep up with the various aspects of it.
Here’s what to expect from your Florida bankruptcy timeline – and what to do at each step!
Before you file for bankruptcy, you’ll have a few things to check off of your to-do list. One of the most important is to complete a credit counseling course. This is an indicator to the legal professionals that you’ll be working with that you are serious about using bankruptcy as a stepping stone to a brighter and better financial future. It will also help you begin rebuilding your credit after your bankruptcy is complete.
This course typically only lasts between an hour and 90 minutes, and must be completed within 180 days of your initial bankruptcy filing. Be wary of companies offering credit counseling that may not be in compliance with legal requirements. You can find a list of approved credit counseling agencies here.
To begin the bankruptcy process, you will need to formally file a bankruptcy petition and remit payment for any associated filing fees. The petition is an official request for the courts to open a bankruptcy case. There are often petition “packages” available with all relevant forms and information regarding filing, and you may be eligible for a waiver for your fees if you are below or even up to 150% above the poverty line. Consults your attorney to learn more about both of these.
Within your first two weeks after the petition is filed, be sure to submit your certificate of completion of your credit counseling course. This will ensure that your adherence to this requirement is properly recorded and can help you avoid having your case thrown out over a mistake in paperwork.
In the next two weeks, several important things must happen for your bankruptcy to proceed smoothly. One of the first of these – after you file your initial paperwork – is to remit your most recent federal tax returns to the trustee in charge of your bankruptcy case. This is typically done within the first month of the bankruptcy timeline and must take place at least seven days before the meeting of creditors.
The statement of intent is a very important document which must also be submitted before the meeting of creditors. This document, though, has a more flexible timeline; it can be turned in any time from the day of filing to the day before or even the day of the meeting of your creditors.
The statement of intent outlines your secured debts and formally notifies your creditors that you are undergoing bankruptcy. It details your plan for either sacrificing assets or the guidelines under which you will repay outstanding debts.
Typically taking place between 20-40 days after your initial filing, your meeting of creditors will be set up via a notice mailed to you and all relevant entities. This notice will give a date, time, and place at which a meeting will be held to allow creditors to discuss your financial matters and ask pertinent questions regarding your decisions. No judge will be present, but you will be under oath and be required both to attend this meeting and to be forthcoming about your financial situation.
On the day of the meeting, ensure that you arrive early to avoid missing any part of the session. Bring with you a photo ID, and any documentation you have supporting the schedules of your bankruptcy. Do not bring cell phones, recording devices, or other electronics, as these will be confiscated before the meeting takes place.
Within thirty days of the meeting of your creditors, you must perform your statement of intent fully. This means that if you outlined sacrifice of assets such as property, you will perform this action within the designated time. If you outlined a plan to begin repayment of your debts, you will begin that process within this period.
In addition to the credit counseling course you were required to take at the beginning of the bankruptcy process, you will also be required to take a financial management course during your bankruptcy process. This course should also be taken only from a recognized, approved agency, a list of which you can find here.
After taking this course, you will receive a certificate of completion which will help you accurately fill out and file your Form B423, which recognizes proper completion of this obligation. You must do this within 60 days of your meeting of creditors.
Should you seek to retain certain personal property during and after the completion of your bankruptcy, you will need to enter into a reaffirmation agreement with your creditors. This agreement essentially allows you to retain assets for which you may owe debt or which might have otherwise been used to settle debt, on the condition that your creditors agree to allow you to continue making payments.
If you are not represented by an attorney – who will sign for this agreement and help you negotiate it – you will need to attend a reaffirmation hearing at this time.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the entire Florida bankruptcy timeline is the day of discharge. After everything else is completed – usually around 100 days from the initial filing – you will enjoy the feeling of knowing that your debts have been relieved and you can begin rebuilding your life.
For more information on Florida bankruptcy and every phase of the timeline, consult the experienced professionals at the Van Horn Law Group. They can help you make sense of every step of your debt relief journey!
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