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Consumer Bankruptcy Attorney

in Orlando, Florida

Aldo G. Bartolone, Jr., Esq. has been handling bankruptcy cases in Florida for nearly two decades. At Bartolone Law, we help hundreds of clients every year get a fresh financial start by exercising their rights under the United States Bankruptcy Code. We help the members of our Central Florida community to escape the burdens of overwhelming debt and to achieve a new tomorrow.

The attorneys at Bartolone Law handle all types of consumer bankruptcy cases, including, the following:

  • Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
  • Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Deciding to file for bankruptcy is very difficult. The majority of individual consumers who file for bankruptcy protection typically do so as a “last resort,” after first attempting other methods to resolving their debts.

A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is sometimes referred to as a “straight” or “liquidation” bankruptcy and is the type of bankruptcy most people envision when they think about bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7, the debtor files a petition with the court asking that the person’s legal obligations for paying his or debts be eliminated or “discharged.” In return, the debtor usually give up property that is “not exempt” or protected by law.

Means Test

Before filing for Chapter 7, debtors must first complete a “means test” designed to show the debtor’s income level and disposable income relative to other people in Florida. This test is complex, and if not filled out accurately the debtor may find that he or she cannot file for Chapter 7. If a debtor fails the means test, they may not file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy but may be able to file for Chapter 13.

Good Faith / Abuse Test

A second test a Chapter 7 debtor must pass is the “good faith” or “abuse” test. The United States Trustee, or any creditor, may request that the bankruptcy court dismiss your Chapter 7 petition if it appears that you filed bankruptcy in order to abuse the system. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can assist you in preparing your petition and advising you on behaviors that may trigger this test.

Exempt Property Under Florida Law

Like most states, Florida has created certain exemptions that Chapter 7 bankruptcy debtors have available to use. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, these exemptions allow debtors to keep some or all of their property. A person is allowed to use Florida’s exemptions so long as that person was domiciled in Florida for at least 730 days prior to filing for bankruptcy. If a filer cannot meet this requirement, he or she may have to use the exemption laws of the state they lived in the most during the previous two years, or the Federal exemptions.

The following property is generally exempt in Florida and would not need to be surrendered in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy:

  • Homestead exemption: This allows a debtor to exempt the value of their primary residence, so long as the filer has owned the property for at least 1,215 days prior to filing for bankruptcy.
  • Wages exemption: The head of a family’s wages are exempt up to $750 per week. This covers both paid and unpaid wages that have been deposited in a bank account within the last 6 months. The wages of someone other than the head of household may also be exempt, but to a lesser extent.
  • Personal property exemption: This exemption allows a single filer to keep up to $1,000 worth of personal property, which includes furniture, art, and electronics. If spouses file for bankruptcy together, this exemption increases to $2,000. If a filer chooses not to claim the homestead exemption, he or she may exempt up to $4,000 of personal property.
  • Pension exemptions: ERISA-qualified retirement plans (such as 401(k)s, 403(b)’s, profit sharing plans, and simple IRA’s are completely exempt, as are benefits paid under the Florida Retirement System, State and County officers and employees retirement system, firefighter pensions, municipal police pensions, and teachers’ retirement benefits. Up to $1,171,650 from IRAs and Roth IRAs are exempt.
  • Public benefits exemptions: Unemployment benefits/re-employment assistance, local public assistance benefits, veterans benefits, and social security benefits are exempt. In addition, federal government employees’ pension payments that are necessary for the support of the filer and that were received three months prior to filing for bankruptcy are exempt.
  • Alimony and child support exemptions: Alimony and child support that is reasonably necessary for the support of the debtor and any of the debtor’s dependents are exempt.
  • Insurance exemptions: The proceeds of a life insurance policy made payable to a specific beneficiary are exempt, as is the cash surrender value of a life insurance policy and the proceeds of an annuity contract. Disability income benefits and fraternal society benefits are also exempt.
  • Miscellaneous exemptions: Workers’ compensation benefits and crime victims’ compensation benefits are exempt. Monetary damages paid to an employee for an injury or death that occurred while employed in a hazardous occupation are exempt.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is a form of debt adjustment in which the debtor sets forth a plan to pay back some of their debts over a period of three to five years.  Typically, a debtor will file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy if they do not pass the “means test” for Chapter 7, or if there is a certain property they would like to keep.

The “plan” that the debtor prepares and submits must devote all disposable income, that is, income left over after certain deductions and expenses are accounted for, to paying back one’s debts.  At the end of the plan, the remaining debts owed by the debtor are discharged (with some exceptions).  The plan payment is submitted to the Chapter 13 Trustee, who then distributes the payment to the debtor’s various creditors according to the plan.

It is important that the debtor carefully craft their Chapter 13 Plan.  The debtor is expected to make regular monthly payments to the Chapter 13 Trustee under the plan.  Also, a plan that does not treat creditors fairly, that does not devote disposable income to the plan, or that is not feasible based on the debtor’s income and proposed plan payment can be dismissed.

Like Chapter 7, a debtor who files for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy is protected by the Bankruptcy Code and the debtor’s exempt property is able to be retained.  Also, creditors must cease collection activity on debts owed and can only speak with the debtor’s attorney or the Chapter 13 Trustee.  However, there are some benefits that are unique to debtors who file Chapter 13:

  • Debtors are able to keep property that might otherwise be lost if the debtor can make payments for the property;
  • Debtor may be able to catch up on past due payments owed on a home or car;
  • Debtors can, in some cases, lower car payments

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a powerful tool that can give overwhelmed debtors the breathing room needed to regain control of their finances.  Like any tool, however, it requires some with skill to be able to use it properly.  Attorney Aldo G. Bartolone, Jr. and the attorneys at Bartolone Law, have represented bankruptcy clients for nearly two decades and know how to prepare and present a plan to the bankruptcy court that protects your assets, is financially feasible, and that will get you started on the road to financial recovery.  Contact us today at 407-294-4440 to schedule your free initial consultation.



Business Bankruptcy Lawyers

in Orlando, Florida

Dealing with financial difficulties in a commercial enterprise is never easy, but it can become even more stressful when you are unable to determine your next steps. At Bartolone Law, our dedicated bankruptcy attorneys will provide you with quality legal representation. We will work diligently to protect your assets to the maximum extent possible under the law. Our extensive knowledge of bankruptcy law and the related financial issues can help you decide whether it is the right choice for your business.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

The Chapter 11 Bankruptcy is typically utilized by businesses that are generating money but are facing financial difficulties, often times due to incurring too much debt. This process gives the officers and managers of the enterprise an opportunity to restructure some of its secured debt and to discount unsecured debt to keep the business intact.

Once a business entity files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, the debtor-entity must provide a repayment plan that is acceptable to the court and the relevant creditors. If the plan is accepted, the business in debt can reorganize its finances over a period of three to five years without having to close down due to financial burdens. Thus, Chapter 11 allows the entity to reorganize by reducing what it owes and paying off creditors over time. This is typically done under the supervision of a court-appointed trustee, although the regular management of the business is still generally responsible for its day-to-day operations.

In Chapter 11 proceedings, there are three kinds of repayment claims: priority claims, secured claims, and unsecured claims. Priority claims refer to extremely important creditors that must be paid in full. Taxes and bankruptcy proceeding costs fall in thiscategory. Secured claims include those for which a creditor can take backup collateral if the debt is not paid off. Unsecured claims refer to situations where the creditor cannot take any property owned by the debtor. Unsecured claims are not required to be paid in full as long as the debtor pays off some disposable income over the period of three to five years. The amount of disposable income a debtor has to pay to unsecured creditors depends on the details of the case.

There are a number of potential reasons why business management might choose to file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy action, such as:

  • Remaining operational while the business is being restructured;
  • Protecting assets that would otherwise be subject to liquidation; and
  • Having the opportunity to spread out the payment of debts and taxes over time.
  • It is important to speak with an experienced bankruptcy attorney about which aspects of this process would apply to your situation.

Consult an Experienced Attorney for your Bankruptcy Matter

Making the decision to file for bankruptcy is never easy, but sometimes it may be the right choice for the financial future of your enterprise. The experienced commercial bankruptcy lawyers at Bartolone Law will work diligently to help protect your assets. We understand that financial difficulty can hamper the success of your business in both the short terms and the long term. If you need the services of a capable legal professional, call us today at 407-294-4440 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.