Written by Attorney Tina Tran.
Updated July 9, 2019
Just because you live in Florida doesn’t mean bankruptcy has to sweep you away like a hurricane. Florida bankruptcy, while complicated, can be broken down and tackled piece by piece in an understandable way for non-lawyers starting with the bankruptcy code. First, it is essential to note that the bankruptcy code is based on federal, not state, law. However, Florida gets to decide some of the more specific details about the bankruptcies filed within its borders. For example, Florida chooses whether or not its residents can use the bankruptcy exemptions contained in the Federal Bankruptcy Code. Florida requires its residents to use Florida exemptions when filing Florida bankruptcy forms. As for official forms, it is always best to get your bankruptcy forms from an up-to-date, reputable source. One of the best of these sources is the website for the United States Courts. Bankruptcy forms do change as laws and rules change, therefore be sure you always have the most recent copies on hand.
Voluntary Petition for Bankruptcy
You must fill out and submit a voluntary petition for bankruptcy if you want to be relieved of your debts through a Florida bankruptcy. This document provides the Court with all the information about your financial situation. The voluntary petition for bankruptcy is a long form consisting of several sections and schedules to fill out. If you work, your documents must include at least 60 days of pay stubs and two years of tax returns. You may also need bank statements and, if you are a homeowner, the deed or mortgage statement for your home is required. If you need your debt information, you can obtain the amounts you owe, creditor names, and creditor addresses from a credit reporting agency like Equifax, Transunion, or Experian. Before you can file your voluntary petition for bankruptcy, you must also find and take a court-approved credit counseling course. The course can be in person or online and prices vary. Finally, you will need to pay the fees and costs necessary to file along with your petition. This can be paid all at once, in installments, or waived if you meet income requirements.
Florida Bankruptcy Schedule A/B: Property
Florida bankruptcy Schedule A/B requires that you list all of your real property and all of your personal property in a Florida bankruptcy. Real property includes land, houses, and buildings. The physical address and value of the property, as well as any mortgages or liens against the property, must be listed. After listing real property, you must list any personal property. When valuing your property for Florida bankruptcy schedule A/B, the value is not the value that the property cost when it was new. Instead, it is the current, or fair market value, of the property. That is “as is” value of your property. When determining the fair market value of a car, you can look at trade magazines and online to see average asking prices for your make, model, and mileage of car. If you have a collector car, then an appraiser may be more appropriate. You might find values for household goods, including furnishings, clothing, and electronics, online or at thrift stores. Antiques, jewelry, furs, and collectibles often need to be valued by an estate appraiser.
Florida Bankruptcy Schedule C: Exemptions
Florida bankruptcy Schedule C deals with exemptions. Property you are allowed to keep after the bankruptcy is over is called exempt property. Exempt property usually includes an inexpensive car, work tools, clothes, and a retirement account. In Florida bankruptcy, you must use Florida’s bankruptcy exemptions if you have lived in the state for at least 2 years. These include Florida’s Homestead Exemption and Wildcard Exemption. Florida’s Homestead exemption allows you to keep your home, condominium, or mobile home if it is under a certain size and you bought and owned it at least 1,215 days prior to the bankruptcy filing. Florida’s Wildcard Exemption permits you to keep up to $4,000 of personal property if you do not use the homestead exemption. Florida, unlike most other states, also allows an exemption for a hurricane savings account.
Florida Bankruptcy Schedule D: Creditors Who Hold Claims Secured by Property
If you owe money on a piece of your property and the collateral for the debt is the property itself, then you have a secured claim. This is also known as a secured debt. If you do not pay the payments on that property, the lender can repossess the property and sell it to reclaim some of the money you owe them. Secured bankruptcy claims often include cars and homes. All secured bankruptcy claims are listed on Florida bankruptcy Schedule D. A Florida bankruptcy may wipe out the debt associated with the secured bankruptcy claim, but it will not wipe out the lien against the property itself. If you want to keep the property, you will have to keep making payments on the loan.
Florida Bankruptcy Schedule E/F: Creditors Who Hold Unsecured Claims
Florida bankruptcy Schedule E is where priority claims are listed. Priority claims are claims paid before others. Common examples of these are child support, alimony, wages you owe a former employee, taxes and debts you owe the government, and court fines and costs owed from a criminal case where you hurt someone. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, priority creditors get paid first out of your nonexempt property (property that you can’t protect with a bankruptcy exemption) if you have any. These get paid before Florida bankruptcy Schedule F debts which are nonpriority claims. Nonpriority claims in Florida bankruptcy can include credit cards, medical bills, and personal loans. Both Florida bankruptcy Schedule E/F creditors must file a proof of claim with the Court to get paid.
Florida Bankruptcy Schedule G: Executory Contracts and Unexpired Leases
Florida bankruptcy Schedule G is all about executory contracts and unexpired leases. Executory contracts are current contracts that take a while to complete and that you are still responsible for paying when you file for Florida bankruptcy. One of the most common examples is a yearly gym membership that is paid out month to month. An unexpired lease is when you lease real or personal property, agree to pay for its use for a set amount of time, and then give the property back. If the lease is not expired and you still have the right to use the property at the time you file bankruptcy, that is an unexpired lease. These leases often include cars, apartments, and equipment.
Florida Bankruptcy Schedule H: Co-debtors
Florida bankruptcy Schedule H asks about your co-debtors. A co-debtor is someone responsible for paying off a debt if you fail to do so. If you share a debt with someone, and you file for bankruptcy, that co-debtor will still be on the hook for the debt, and the creditor will look to them to pay the whole amount after your bankruptcy is over. A lot of times a co-debtor is a co-signer on a car loan, mortgage, or credit card. Co-debtors must be notified of your bankruptcy. A co-debtor can be your spouse, or anyone else you share a debt with. In a Florida bankruptcy, if your spouse files jointly with you, they would not be listed as a co-debtor, but as debtor 2.
Florida Bankruptcy Schedule I: Income
Your current monthly income for Florida bankruptcy Schedule I includes all the income you receive from all sources during the six months prior to filing for Florida bankruptcy. All of your income for each month is added up then divided by six to get the monthly average. All of your monthly income must be included. It does not matter if that income is taxed or not taxed. If you are receiving money as a contractor, under the table, or regularly from family or friends, you must include this on Florida bankruptcy Schedule I. Any money you receive to pay your living expenses each month, must be listed on Schedule I, regardless of the source.
Florida Bankruptcy Schedule J: Expenses
Florida bankruptcy Schedule J provides the bankruptcy Trustee with your current household budget. The Trustee will compare your expenses to your income. This will show the Trustee if you are paying your creditors more or less than your household budget allows each month. Florida bankruptcy Schedule J shows the Trustee and Court how much disposable income, money leftover at the end of each month, you have to pay creditors. If you have too much disposable income on Schedule J, you might not be able to file Chapter 7 Florida bankruptcy. On Schedule J, you must list all of your current monthly expenses and all of your dependents. A dependent is either a minor or an adult for whom you provide at least 50% of their support. Your spouse does not count. Their information is listed elsewhere on the Florida bankruptcy forms.
Declaration About Schedules
At the end of the bankruptcy schedules is the Declaration about Schedules. When you sign this declaration, you are stating that all of the information provided in your bankruptcy petition is true and correct. The declaration is another reminder of the hefty penalties that come along with committing bankruptcy fraud. There can be a fine of up to $250,000, imprisonment of up to 20 years, or both for bankruptcy fraud. If you paid a bankruptcy preparer to help fill out your documents, you must check the yes box on the declaration. Upsolve is not a petition preparer as they are not a paid service.
Summary of Assets and Liabilities
The totals for the Summary of Assets and Liabilities form are found on the Florida bankruptcy Schedules. The Summary of Assets and Liabilities is an important form because it helps the Court determine if your debts are mostly consumer or non-consumer debts. Consumer debt is debt incurred by an individual for personal, family, or household purposes. Any other debt is non-consumer debt. Business debt is non-consumer debt. The reason this is so important is that if more than half of your debts are business debts, the Means Test does not apply to you. You can file for Chapter 7 without taking the Means Test.
Statement of Intention for Filing Florida Chapter 7
The Statement of Intention for Filing Florida Chapter 7 form tells the Court if you want to keep your secured and leased property that you are making payments on at the time you file your Florida bankruptcy. It must be filed with the Court and delivered to your creditor or leaseholder within 30 days of filing bankruptcy or by the first date set for your meeting of creditors, whichever comes first. One of the most common secured or leased property items is your car. Your choices for it are to keep making payments or give the car back to your car lender. The Statement of Intention for Filing Florida Chapter 7 tells your creditor whether you plan to keep your car, buy your car, or surrender your car.
Statement of Financial Affairs
The Statement of Financial Affairs for Individuals Filing for Florida bankruptcy, tells the bankruptcy Trustee about your financial transactions in the years before filing Florida bankruptcy. The Trustee uses this information in part to look for preferential payments to one creditor over another. This is when you choose to pay one creditor over another even though they are they same type of creditor. For example, you pay Visa instead of Mastercard even though they are both credit cards. The Court wants creditors to get their fair share of payments. Therefore, the Trustee can take back a payment from one creditor and redistribute it equally among all the creditors. This doesn’t necessarily mean the Trustee will do this. It’s just that the Trustee can do this. This is also a way for the Trustee to check for fraud. If you pay back an “insider,” or someone you are close with personally or in business, within 90 days of bankruptcy, the Trustee will likely take back that payment and redistribute it to other creditors.
Chapter 7 Statement of Your Current Monthly Income 122A-1
Bankruptcy form 122A-1 is the first step to making sure you are not trying to abuse the bankruptcy laws and avoid paying your debts when you have disposable income each month to make payments on your debts. On this form, you must list all gross income you received the 6 months before you filed bankruptcy. Then you will compare that number to the median income for a family of the same size for Florida. Upsolve keeps an up-to-date median income chart for Florida bankruptcy on its site. If your gross income is at or below the median income for Florida, you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You do not need to proceed to the Means Test. If you do need to go on to the Means Test, that is bankruptcy form 122-A2. The Means Test will allow you to deduct expenses from your income, then compare your income to the median income for Florida again. If you do not pass, you may have to consider filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. There are a few exceptions. If you have to take the Means Test, we suggest you speak with an experienced Florida bankruptcy attorney.
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Statement About Your Social Security Numbers: Form 121
You must put your social security number on Florida bankruptcy form 121. If you do not have a social security number, you must use your ITIN number. An ITIN number is a tax-processing number issued by the IRS. It is often given to people unable to receive social security numbers because of their immigration status. If you do not qualify for a social security number, and do not have an ITIN number, you will need to get one from the IRS before filing bankruptcy. An ITIN card or social security card, along with a government issued photo identification, is one way of proving your identity to the Court.
The creditor matrix is a mailing list of your creditors. This list is used by the Court to provide notice to all of your creditors about your Florida bankruptcy case. If it is not filed properly, the creditor matrix could cause problems with your discharge. The Court uses your creditor matrix to alert creditors that an automatic stay is in order. It also notifies them of the time and place of your meeting of creditors. If you do not include a creditor on your creditor matrix, there is a good chance that debt will not get discharged in your bankruptcy due to lack of notice on the creditor’s part. This could mean a costly amendment to your bankruptcy or the omitted debt not getting discharged.
Verification of Creditor Matrix Florida
The verification of creditor matrix is submitted with the creditor matrix in Florida bankruptcy. It certifies under penalty of perjury that you listed all of your known creditors and their addresses. Therefore, you must never intentionally leave out a creditor or their information. Perjury in bankruptcy can be a federal felony and end in prison, fines, loss of discharge, loss of rights and privileges of citizenship, and even affect your immigration status.
Credit Counseling Course Certificate for Chapter 7 in Florida
When you file a Chapter 7 Florida bankruptcy, you must file a credit counseling course certificate at the same time. You may complete this course through any credit counseling organization and debtor education course provider approved by the U.S. Trustee Program. There are two parts to the requirement, pre-bankruptcy counseling and post-filing debtor education. Pre-bankruptcy counseling includes an evaluation of your current financial situation, a discussion about bankruptcy alternatives, and a personal budget plan. Post-filing debtor education includes topics such as how to create a budget, manage money, and use credit wisely. Both requirements are available to be completed in person, on the phone, or online in Florida.
Florida Bankruptcy Fee Waiver
A Florida bankruptcy fee waiver may be available to you if you earn below 150 percent of the federal poverty line. This would be less than $1,561 per month for a single person and less than $3,218.75 for a family of four. The waiver application is submitted to a bankruptcy judge to determine if you are eligible for the fee waiver. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay the $335 filing fee to the bankruptcy Court. If you are denied the fee waiver, it is possible to pay the $335 in an installment plan. In addition to the Florida bankruptcy filing fee, there are fees for the pre-bankruptcy counseling course and post-bankruptcy debtor education course. You may qualify to have those fees waived also.
Florida Specific Bankruptcy Forms
Since the bankruptcy code is federal law, people filing bankruptcy in Florida use the federal bankruptcy forms. People in the Southern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida, and Northern District of Florida are in luck as all of the courts only require one set of bankruptcy forms. The Middle District of Florida is unique in that people filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in that district don’t need a statement of pay advices. In all other Florida districts, you’ll need to fill out the statement of pay advices. This is found in the “local forms” section of your Florida Bankruptcy Court Website.
Northern District of Florida Bankruptcy Requirements
The Northern District of Florida has no special forms. The Court for the District is held at Gainesville, Panama City, Pensacola, and Tallahassee. The Court includes Alachua, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Washington, Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, and Wakulla counties.
The Northern District of Florida has no special forms.
Declaration Regarding Payment Advices (Mandatory).
Middle District of Florida Bankruptcy Requirements
The Middle District of Florida has no special forms. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida is one of three federal judicial districts in Florida. Court for the District is held at Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Ocala, Orlando, and Tampa. The Court includes Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Flagler, Hamilton, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns, Suwannee, Union, Citrus, Lake, Marion, Sumter, Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Volusia, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota counties.
The Middle District of Florida has no special forms.
Southern District of Florida Bankruptcy Requirements
The Southern District of Florida has no special forms, but make sure you file the mandatory declaration regarding payment advices. The Court includes the nine counties of Broward, Highlands, Indian River, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, and St. Lucie. The district includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. It comprises 15,197 square miles and about 6.3 million people.
The Southern District of Florida has no special forms.
Declaration Regarding Payment Advices (Mandatory).