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Florida Exemptions (Middle) Chap 7

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  • Florida Exemptions (Middle) Chap 7

    We filed Chap 7 in Middle District Florida last May pro se. Went to the 341 meeting - no hiccups there. Trustee even said it was a "no assets" case. In September, the bankruptcy was discharged. One more thing - at the 341 meeting she asked if we had been "harrassed" by creditors. I told her 1 creditor had called several times every day, but I never answered the phone and talked with them and finally blocked their number.

    Based on that, she has filed a lawsuit against that creditor, saying in the lawsuit that I said I told them not to call me and that I said their numerous calls caused me emotional distress, etc., etc. She recorded the 341 meeting, and I never said that. I specifically told her I never spoke with them. I told her I simply blocked their calls, and that was the end of that as far as I was concerned.

    Then the day before Thanksgiving (6 weeks after discharge), we received a letter from the trustee saying we needed to pay $3,100 in 45 days. We were shocked! I contacted the trustee's office and was told it was because of how we filed our exemptions. If I had $3,100, I would have hired an attorney! Anyway, I went back to the research and ended up filing amended forms for the exemptions. I had way over-valued items. We have no equity in our home or our 1 vehicle (we only have 1 vehicle). Therefore, I did not include either in exemptions. Thinking I had no need to use the homestead exemption as there was no equity to exempt, I believed we each had $4,000 in wild card exemptions.

    We got an email back from the trustee saying with the new filing, we now owed over $8,000. She said if we wanted a wildcard exemption to cover all or most of this, we would need to let the trustee to take our home and 1 vehicle. Even though there is no equity?? Anyway, I went back and again filed amended forms, adding the home and vehicle, noting there was no equity in either. They came back with we owe $750 in 30 days. I thought it might come back that we owed $501.

    So I questioned politely and respectfully as to how they arrived at that amount as there was no explanation. They came back with that they took my newly filed forms and ADDED in a riding lawn mower for $250 that I had showed on my first filing. I explained because there was only 1 line left on the exemption form, I consolidated the lawn mower with "Tools." I explained previously I had not understood how to value items, but had learned more before filing the last amendment. The mower does not run and is 19 years old. It MIGHT be good for $50 for parts. The trustee said she was adding the riding lawn mower for $250 because that is what I had on my FIRST filing. I explained I signed an affidavit that the last filing was true and correct to the best of my ability. I didn't bring it up to her, but I also had a piano on my first filing for $600 that I subsequently sold so I did not include it on the last filing. She did not "add" that to my last filing. She is arbitrarily picking & choosing items and values from all filings to claim for me to pay for. Finally, she said, "Ok. We have decided to send an appraiser to your house."

    So, now I have a question: I have been self employed for the better part of 40 years, working from my office in my home. My business is registered with the state of Florida, and I pay personal property taxes on my office furniture and equipment, as well as sales taxes. The one room in our home is strictly office, sometimes even meeting with clients there. I have filing cabinets with personal information of clients in them that we are audited periodically on our security of personal information, that no unauthorized persons has had access to that information. Am I able to close the door to my office and tell the appraiser that the property in that room is business property and should not be included in the appraisal?

    Our roof is damaged from Hurricane Irma & we are trying to come up with the hurricane deductible to get it fixed. It will be impossible to pay another amount within 30 days. We are so concerned.
    It is difficult to believe a trustee basically has unbridled power to demand any amount of payment on items of their choosing and as little as 30 days to come up with it, let alone file what I believe is a fraudulent lawsuit against a bank in that it claims I said things I never said. Is there no recourse for complaining against a trustee that apparently is out of control?

    Thank you in advance for your help.

  • #2
    Ummm, the Trustee only had 30 days from the 341 meeting to file an objection to claim of exemption. Since you filed Pro Se, you need to know the law. However, I don't read anywhere you say that the Trustee objected to your exemptions... they are only saying that you owe. This reads to me that you mis-valued property, continued to mis-value or omit property, and just dug a bigger hole with each amendment. I would have just told the Trustee that they are welcome to come and get the tractor (I don't know why you keep it anyway) or any of the other contested property.

    The Trustee seems to be operating based on the facts that they had in the petition. They can order an appraisal and they can demand turnover of property (unless you want to keep the broken lawnmower which appears will cost you $250... at least). The fact that you sold property that was not originally listed, is problematic. Unless you didn't claim the homestead exemption, there is only $1,000 in property that you can protect (other than a car).

    The Trustee may be pressuring you because the Florida Supreme Court ruled, essentially, that if you claim the homestead exemption then, regardless of receiving the benefit (protecting equity), you don't get the $4,000. This was clarified in 2011 after many Trustees and bankruptcy courts were getting some things wrong. If you did not claim the homestead exemption, then you get the $4K... but the Trustee could still take your home, regardless of equity, and try to get a carve out because it's not protected.

    Did you claim the homestead exemption? If not, you get the $4K for each debtor but expose the home to the Trustee. If you did claim it, then you only have the $1,000 and the Trustee is right.

    I think you have a mess on your hands.

    In summary, a debtor in a federal bankruptcy proceeding may cease to receive the constitutional protection from forced sale or levy by not claiming homestead property as exempt. Accordingly, if under the facts of the case the article X homestead exemption does not otherwise present an obstacle to the bankruptcy trusteeā€Ÿs administration of the estate, then the debtor in bankruptcy is not receiving the benefits of the homestead exemption and is eligible to claim the statutory personal property exemption of section 222.25(4).

    Florida Supreme Court 2011
    Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
    Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
    Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog


    I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank you, Justbroke. We have no desire to keep the lawn mower. In fact, I told the trustee we would be happy to bring it to her, only to receive the reply we owe $750 to be paid "IN FULL" in 30 days. I wish she would demand to turn over property; then I would happily give her the lawn mower!

      We did claim the house as an exemption on the amended form with a notation there is no equity in it. We understand we only have $1,000 in exemptions each. That is why I was expecting a "bill" for $501. But when the bill was for $750 with no explanation, that is when I questioned how they calculated it. That is when the lawn mower came up.

      We actually went ahead and took $750 out of the money we are saving for our roof and paid the $750. They cashed the check. So now I guess we are waiting on the appraiser to come.

      My original question was relating to the appraiser coming: I have been self employed for the better part of 40 years, working from my office in my home. My business is registered with the state of Florida, and I pay personal property taxes on my office furniture and equipment, as well as sales taxes. The one room in our home is strictly office, sometimes even meeting with clients there. I have filing cabinets with personal information of clients in them that we are audited periodically on our security of personal information, that no unauthorized persons has had access to that information. Am I able to close the door to my office and tell the appraiser that the property in that room is business property and should not be included in the appraisal?

      If my office happened to be 5 miles down the street, I don't believe the appraiser would go there and appraise that along with our personal property at our house. That is why I questioned if they would appraise the few pieces of furniture and equipment I have and need to run my business.

      Thank you.

      Comment


      • #4
        Well, is that business a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC)? If not, then it is your alter ego "doing business as" and that property is your personal property.
        Chapter 7 (No Asset/Non-Consumer) Filed (Pro Se) 7/08 (converted from Chapter 13 - 2/10)
        Status: (Auto) Discharged and Closed! 5/10
        Visit My BKForum Blog: justbroke's Blog


        I am not an attorney. Any advice provided is not legal advice.

        Comment

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