In Pinellas County, Florida, bankruptcy is a court procedure in which a person or business has some or all of their debts absolved (or "discharged"), theoretically allowing them to commence with a clean slate, and move on with their lives no longer drowning in debt (and hopefully having learned to better manage their use of credit in the process). However, bankruptcy should not be treated as a way to avoid debt that one simply doesn't feel like paying. It is meant to be a safety net for people or businesses who are really unable to pay off their debts. Because bankruptcy is not without negative consequences (such as a severely damaged credit rating for many years afterward), it should be viewed as an option of last resort.
Therefore, it is a good idea to talk with an veteran bankruptcy lawyer in Pinellas County, Florida. They will be able to advise you on the likely legal and financial consequences of filing for bankruptcy, and help you determine if it's the right option for your. Because this determination depends heavily on the facts of each distinct case, the counsel of a Pinellas County bankruptcy attorney cannot be substituted.
Types of Bankruptcy in Pinellas County, Florida
There are three basic bankruptcy schemes that are most commonly used in Pinellas County: Chapters 7, 13, and 11. Bankruptcy is a creation of federal law, so the procedure for filing for bankruptcy in Pinellas County, Florida will be roughly the same as it would be anywhere else in the U.S. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or "liquidation," requires the debtor to sell some of his or her property to the highest bidder, and using the proceeds from the sale to pay down as much debt as possible. Once the sale is done, all dischargeable debt is deemed paid in full, whether or not the sale was able to raise the entire amount owed. You should note that some property (usually the types of property deemed essential) is fully or partially exempt from liquidation, meaning that the debtor gets to keep it. This includes houses, cars, and retirement accounts, among others. Some types of debts, however, cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, including taxes, child support, and student loans.
The other popular bankruptcy system in Pinellas County is Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Under this system, the debtor's debts are restructured, instead of discharged. This involves creating a new repayment plan that the debtor will find manageable, given his or her income, and that will result in the creditors being paid in a reasonable amount of time. When a repayment plan is approved by a court, creditors are legally barred from attempting to collect under the original terms of their arrangement with the debtor. Though Chapter 11 bankruptcy can be used by individuals, it is almost exclusively used by businesses. Similar to Chapter 13, Chapter 11 involves restructuring of debts, rather than complete discharge. The debtor is required to come up with a restructuring plan that lays out how it plans to cut costs, streamline operations, and pay its debts. The plan must then be approved by a vote of participating creditors.
One advantage of Chapter 11 bankruptcy is that it allows a business going through it to continue operations, and to trade its stock.
How Can a Pinellas County Bankruptcy Lawyer Help?
The need to examine all the options and consider the costs and benefits of filing for bankruptcy in Pinellas County cannot be overstated. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, it would be a good idea to speak with a Pinellas County bankruptcy attorney beforehand.