Lakeland Bankruptcy Attorney & Polk County Bankruptcy Attorney
Financial Problems? Consult a Lakeland Bankruptcy Lawyer.
The first step to take when considering bankruptcy is to consult with a Lakeland bankruptcy lawyer. Lakeland bankruptcy attorneys offer a free initial consultation, so you'll be able to speak with the attorney, discuss your financial problems and explore debt solutions. Bankruptcy laws allow you to eliminate debt and your Polk County Bankruptcy Attorney will explain how this can work for you.
You may hear commercials for other methods of debt assistance from individuals or businesses in the State of Florida who are not bankruptcy law firms. Commercials offering debt consolidation, debt settlements, short sales, and credit card debt reduction run on Lakeland radio stations such as WONN 1230 AM, WLKF 1430 AM, WWAB 1330 AM, W242AK 96.3 FM, WKES 91.1 FM, and WYFO 91.9 FM and Polk County television channels such as WMOR-TV and WLWA-LP.
Be careful of offers from unlicensed companies. Get your debt advice from a Lakeland Debt Relief Law Firm and an experienced Lakeland Bankruptcy Attorney.
What if I can't afford a Lakeland bankruptcy attorney?
If you're going to be filing a Ch. 7 bankruptcy, some Lakeland attorneys will allow you to make payments over a period of time until your fee is paid in full. Most Lakeland bankruptcy attorneys will not file your Chapter 7 case until the fee has been paid.
In other chapters of bankruptcy, such as Chapter 13, Chapter 11, and Chapter 12, part of the legal fees are paid before filing the case with the court and the balance of the legal fees are included in the bankruptcy plan. This means you will be paying your attorney fees as part of the plan payments. This is a good option if you cannot afford to pay your attorney before you file your bankruptcy case.
There are set filing fees that are set by the United States Bankruptcy Courts. Currently the filing fees are:
Total Fees Collected
at Time of Filing
Is there a cheaper option than using a Lakeland bankruptcy lawyer?
When people find themselves with financial problems — a pending foreclosure, garnishment, and/or repossession — they might wonder whether it would be cheaper to hire a non-attorney such as a bankruptcy paralegal or a bankruptcy petition preparer. While these para-professionals, as they are known, can be skilled and knowledgeable about bankruptcy, they do not have the same legal education and training as an attorney.
A very important reason against hiring a non-attorney is that non-attorneys are prohibited by law from offering legal advice (this is known as unauthorized practice of law). Don't make your financial problems worse by putting yourself in a situation where you have no one to ask questions. Consult with a Lakeland Bankruptcy Attorney who will answer your questions and help you reduce or eliminate your debt.
Can I represent myself in a bankruptcy case? Can I represent myself in court?
Yes. But if the cost of legal fees is the main or only reason you want to represent yourself, consider this: when Congress amended the Bankruptcy Code in 2005 they made it more complicated and mistakes now have greater consequences.
A do-it-yourself bankruptcy may seem to save you money at the beginning of the bankruptcy process. But understand that if you make a mistake in your DIY bankruptcy and don't know how to protect your rights, you could lose some of your property in an amount far greater than what legal fees would have cost.
Do you know enough about the bankruptcy system to adequately represent yourself?
Take this simple test — the terms below are some of the most basic terms used in the various chapters of bankruptcy cases. How many do you know or understand?
( ) Petition
( ) Debtor
( ) Co-Debtor
( ) Automatic Stay
( ) Exemptions
( ) Lakeland Credit Counseling Agencies
( ) Proof of Claim
( ) Means Test
( ) Disposable Income
( ) Property Values
( ) Secured or Unsecured
( ) Presumption of Abuse
( ) 341 Hearing
( ) Objections to Claims
( ) Discharge
Filling out bankruptcy forms.
You might have been told that bankruptcy is nothing more than filling out forms. There are a lot of forms to fill out in a Lakeland bankruptcy case, but unlike the 1040-EZ federal income tax form which can be used by individuals with simple financial circumstances there is no "EZ" form in the bankruptcy forms.
Each Lakeland bankruptcy case commences with the filing of a petition. Accompanying the petition are schedules, statements, forms, and supporting documentation. Here is a list of documents that would be filed by a Polk County resident in a typical Lakeland Chapter 7 bankruptcy case:
- Petition (indicating the chapter under which the case is being filed)
- Summary of Schedules and Statistical Summary with Declaration Concerning Debtor's Schedules
- Schedule A - list of Real Property
- Schedule B - list of Personal Property
- Schedule C - Claim of Exemptions (this protects certain property according to amounts set forth in Florida law)
- Schedules D, E, and F - lists of debts
- Schedule G - list of executory contracts and leases
- Schedule H - list of co-debtors
- Schedules I and J - monthly income and expenses
- Statement of Financial Affairs - a detailed list of questions that must be completed by all debtors
- Debtor's Statement of Intention - surrendering, reaffirming, redeeming secured debts?
- Means Test
- Supporting documents: pay advices, bank statements, tax returns, etc. (varies, depending on the local rules of the Bankruptcy Court)
What could go wrong?
An experienced Lakeland Bankruptcy Lawyer will give their clients a list of information and documentation that needs to be provided. When a Lakeland resident attempts to represent themselves in a bankruptcy case they make these same assumptions, but there is no qualified Lakeland Bankruptcy Lawyer to advise them and set them on the correct course. Here are some examples of common mistakes resulting from making assumptions:
► Not listing ALL creditors because you want to keep a particular credit card or you owe money to a relative and want to pay them back or don't want to tell them about the bankruptcy. There is a specific statute in the bankruptcy code regarding penalties for persons who negligently or fraudulently prepare bankruptcy petitions.
► Not listing ALL assets. This is more likely an honest mistake rather than an attempt to conceal assets.
► Not properly listing or applying allowed exemptions.
► Listing your expenses on Schedule J in amounts you feel you the court would approve, rather than the actual amounts spent each month.
► Over-valuing your personal property.
What Can You Do to Help Your Own Bankruptcy Case?
Consult with and hire an experienced Lakeland Bankruptcy Law Firm or Attorney.
Even if you read through the federal bankruptcy code and feel you have learned enough about the federal code to represent yourself, there are 94 federal judicial districts that handle bankruptcy matters and each district will have its own set of local bankruptcy rules. Additionally, it is not uncommon for the individual judges within each district to also have their own set of rules for their bankruptcy courtrooms. Polk County Bankruptcy Attorneys are experienced with the local rules of the bankruptcy court and the bankruptcy judges.
Start putting together an accurate valuation of your property.
It can be difficult to estimate the value of your personal property. The court will want to know the value the item could be sold for as of the date of filing, not what it would cost to replace it. Pawn shops and second-hand stores are good sources for getting property values:
98 North Pawnbrokers
A A All Cash Depot
A-All Cash Depot Pawn
A-Cash Advance Pawn
Anything Pawn & Check Cashing
1 Stop Shop
Children's Thrift Store
A A Electric
All Saint's Church Consignment Thrift & More
Design Furniture Consignment
For values of your real property, contact a local realtor. For values of cars, contact a used car dealer (Carmax, as an example) or check online for the Kelly Blue Book or NADA value.
Get your tax returns filed
If you have had income for the past few years and have not filed all of your income tax returns, you will be required to do so in order to file for bankruptcy. Contact a local tax return specialist for assistance with filing your returns:
4219 S Florida Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33813
JK Harris & Company
1102 S Florida Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33803
Liberty Tax Service
2125 Us Highway 98, Lakeland, FL 33805
If you are a do-it-yourself tax preparer, then visit the website for the Internal Revenue Service to obtain the necessary tax forms.
What NOT to do:
Don't transfer assets; don't give things away; don't put your spouse's or kids' names on titles; don't sell stuff and put the cash under your mattress. Don't try to outsmart the system. These "creative" financial maneuvers are all covered in questions on one of the bankruptcy forms called the "Statement of Financial Affairs." This bankruptcy form asks for answers about your financial transactions going back 2, 5 and even 10 years!
It's best to speak with a Lakeland Bankruptcy Attorney about your situation and receive educated advice about the best course of action you should take. It will also keep you from potentially getting into trouble with the bankruptcy court.
Consult Lakeland Bankruptcy Lawyers serving Polk County and the Surrounding Areas
Serving clients throughout Central Florida, including Auburndale, Bartow, Combee Settlement, Cypress Gardens, Eagle Lake, Gibsonia, Highland City, Inwood, Kathleen, Lake Alfred, Lakeland, Lakeland, Highlands, Medula, Orangedale, Polk City, Socrum, Wahneta, Winston,
Winterhaven, and other communities in Polk County.
Bankruptcy laws are designed to give you debt relief. Contact a Lakeland Bankruptcy Attorney for a free initial consultation and learn how you can get help with your financial problems.