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How Bankruptcy Works in Florida

There are many misinterpretations about bankruptcy, one of which is the idea that because the Bankruptcy Code is federal law, all bankruptcy cases are the same regardless of where they are filed, and that is not true.

A bankruptcy case filed in Florida will not necessarily have the same outcome as a case filed in Arizona or New Mexico. Florida has its laws and income guidelines that affect the amount of property you can keep in, as well as whether you qualify to file for in the first place.

Bankruptcy Laws Implementation in Florida

The choice of exemption laws is determined by the state of residence; however, you’ll need to have lived in Florida for two years before its rules will apply to your bankruptcy case. This residency requirement was put in place to prevent debtors from “forum shopping” and moving to a state with favorable exemption laws. If you’ve recently moved to Florida, your case will borrow its exemptions from the country that you spent the most time in for the 180 days preceding the two-year look-back period.

In other words, go back two years. Now ask yourself where you spent the majority of the six months that led up to those two years. That state is your exemption state.

Bankruptcy Exemption for Florida Homestead

If you’ve been living in Florida for two years or more, Florida bankruptcy laws will apply to your case, so let’s jump in and see what we’re dealing with. Florida is an “opt-out state,” meaning federal exemptions are not available. As a practical matter, this is not a massive issue because Florida’s exemption laws are relatively generous.

The Florida Constitution grants all Floridians the right to unlimited homestead protection against judgment creditors, regardless of the length of residency. The bankruptcy system works differently.

In bankruptcy, the Florida homestead exemption allows a primary residence of unlimited value to be protected from creditors as long as the debtor has lived in Florida for 40 months or more, and the property is not larger than half an acre in a municipality or 160 acres elsewhere. If the 40-month residency requirement has not been met, the homestead exemption is capped as per federal law.

Contiguous property may include lots with separate legal descriptions and different tax numbers. While mobile homes do not qualify as a homestead under the definition contained in the Florida Constitution, they are exempt under Florida law in Chapter 222. Investment property cannot be protected by the Florida homestead exemption. So, the bottom line is this: in bankruptcy, you don’t get the unlimited Florida homestead exemption unless you’ve lived in the state for 40 straight months.

Florida Bankruptcy Exemption

For more popular Florida bankruptcy exemptions, see the chart below. Please note that all exemption amounts change periodically, so it’s best to consult with a qualified Florida bankruptcy attorney before filing to ensure you can protect your property.

The top 5 exemptions under Florida state law:

Type of exemption

Florida law

Homestead

Unlimited (when meeting length of ownership requirement), but the property must be no larger than half an acre in a municipality or 160 acres elsewhere

Personal property

Up to $1,000, including furniture, art, and electronics; can claim up to $4,000 if not using the homestead exemption

Vehicle

Up to $1,000; more if married and filing jointly

Wages

Head of the family entirely exempt up to $750 per week, paid and unpaid during the last six months

Pension/retirement

401(k)'s exempt; IRA’s and Roth IRA’s exempt up to $1,171,650

Bankruptcy cost in Florida

There are charges that you have to pay if you have a charge of bankruptcy. If you have to file for bankruptcy, you have to pay bankruptcy filing fees. First, you must disclose all aspects of your financial situations such as income, property, debt, expenses, and property transactions on official bankruptcy forms. These forms are available on the U.S Bankruptcy Court forms web pages for a fee. After filling the online official bankruptcy form, you will file your paperwork in your local bankruptcy court with a filing fee or fee waiver. If you qualify for a fee waiver, you will not have to pay the bankruptcy filing fee. Then, you will hire a bankruptcy attorney in orlando Florida, and an attorney’s price varies from area to area or based on the lawyer’s qualification or experience.


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