Jacksonville Bankruptcy Asset Protection Lawyer
Plan Ahead to Maximize the Benefit of Your Jacksonville Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is an important and effective legal tool for millions of Americans struggling with consumer debt every year. It is not a process to be taken lightly, however. Bankruptcies do not happen overnight, and the earlier you start planning for your bankruptcy, the more beneficial the bankruptcy will be to your finances and security. Planning ahead will allow you to protect more of your assets from sale and maximize the debt you are able to reduce or discharge while minimizing the amount you have to sacrifice. Reach out to a seasoned Jacksonville bankruptcy asset protection lawyer at Albaugh Law Firm today to start planning for your financial future.
Protect Your Assets Before Filing
Before you even file for bankruptcy, there are steps that you can take to protect your assets before, during, and after the bankruptcy. Your bankruptcy attorney can help you plan through measures including:
- Asset protection trusts. These are legal vessels created under specific state laws to protect certain assets from creditor judgments. Asset protection trusts may even be created in other states without being a resident, although it is essential not to try to hide assets from the bankruptcy trustee.
- Accounts-receivable financing. If you own a business, you may be able to borrow against your business’s accounts receivable. Accounts receivable are the outstanding balances of invoices that have been billed to customers but not yet paid. Doing so can affect the estimated value of your business in such a way as to dissuade your Chapter 7 trustee from reaching your business assets.
- Reduce your home equity. Home equity up to a certain amount is exempt from bankruptcy. There are legal and appropriate means to encumber real estate to reduce your equity and ensure that you take full advantage of the homestead exemption under Chapter 7. Any such equity reduction must be made well in advance of the bankruptcy, more than a year ahead of time, for reasons discussed below.
Talk to your Florida bankruptcy attorney about how to protect your assets from Chapter 7 sale and how bankruptcy can be used to protect your other assets.
Protecting Your Home
One of the most immediate benefits of filing for bankruptcy is obtaining an automatic stay from the court. The automatic stay puts an immediate hold on all collection processes, including debt collection lawsuits, wage garnishment, auto repossessions, and home foreclosures. Your home equity, up to a certain value, is typically exempt from a Chapter 7 sale. Moreover, the Florida Constitution protects a debtor’s primary residence from levy and execution to collect a debt. Bankruptcy will not protect your home indefinitely if you are unable to continue paying your mortgage, but it will buy you some additional time while you reduce your other obligations.
Know Your Exemptions
When you are ready to file for bankruptcy, one of the most important things to do is to pick your exemptions. Chapter 7 filers must choose either the federal or Florida set of exemptions. Unfortunately, you cannot pick and choose your desired exemptions from each. Your bankruptcy attorney can walk you through the exemptions under each set of laws and help you pick the set that best protects the assets you care about.
Once you have picked your blanket set of exemptions, work with your bankruptcy lawyer to use those exemptions to maximize your benefits. Identify all potentially exempt assets, use the different overlapping buckets to your advantage (e.g., a combination of the auto exemption and wildcard exemption). You can likely protect your retirement accounts, your car (up to a certain amount), home office equipment, and other property. Make sure you thoroughly review all of your assets and all of the available exemptions so that you do not accidentally lose an asset to the bankruptcy that could have been protected. Many Chapter 7 filers are surprised to learn just how much of their property they can protect from sale.
Stick to the Rules
While bankruptcy can be extremely useful in protecting important assets such as your house, car, and computer, it is important to follow the rules throughout the bankruptcy process. Do not try to trick the court or your creditors by shuffling around or hiding assets in order to protect them from seizure. Any significant asset transfers you undergo after filing for bankruptcy are likely to be voided by the court. Moreover, if you try to transfer assets just before filing for bankruptcy, not only will the court void those transfers and include those assets in your bankruptcy, the trustee may even move to deny you your bankruptcy discharge because they view such transfers as an attempt to defraud your creditors. Start your bankruptcy planning as early as possible and discuss permissible and effective asset protection measures with your bankruptcy lawyer.
Experienced Jacksonville Bankruptcy Attorneys Here to Help
If you are considering bankruptcy and do not know where to begin, reach out to a dedicated and detail-oriented Jacksonville bankruptcy attorney at the Albaugh Law Firm for advice and representation. We offer free consultations for bankruptcy clients. We will walk you through your options for debt relief, discuss whether bankruptcy is the right move forward, and help you prepare for the process in order to protect your cherished assets. We will represent you throughout every step of your bankruptcy to help you build your financial future. Call our Florida bankruptcy attorneys at 904-471-3434 today.