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Pro se in Southern Florida, where to start?

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    Pro se in Southern Florida, where to start?

    Hello folks,

    I’m considering, filing pro se chapter 7, in Southern District of Florida. I was referred to flsb.uscourts.gov website but a bit overwhelmed and I’m not quite sure where to start and/or how to go about filing. I’d greatly appreciate your guidance, especially if you have experience locally.

    #2
    You should obtain the Nolo guidebook "How to File For Chapter y7 Bankruptcy."

    It may be available at your local library or you can purchase either a hardcopy of eBook version. There's no other way anyone can get you started than by using a guidebook, or a General Information Book for Pro Se Individuals from places like the Florida Middle District.

    The first question will always be, why are you trying to file Pro Se? If you have any assets or complexity of any kind, filing Pro Se may not be the best idea.
    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
      Thanks!

      Looks like that book may be available, at local library.

      How helpful will that information guide from Florida Middle District be for Florida Southern District?

      I’m considering filling Pro Se, because I can’t afford to pay a lawyer, upfront. I’ve had a few free consultations and most say, I appear to qualify for chapter 7. The main asset I have is my home, which they tell me is exempt, as long as, I’m living in, which I am.

      As for debt, it’s all credit cards (6) and totals approximately $100,000.

      I’m self-employed with no income, no savings, last $100 in bank, little food in fridge/pantry & 1/2 tank of gas in car (blue book value of $500), and now starting to miss payments, on electric, water, insurance, internet, cable, phone, etc. Getting depressed & trying to sell what I can, ie collectibles & household goods, but not going well. 

      Approximate current value of home is $500,000+, which I own free & clear and have $5,600+ property tax bill due, by end of March. I’m in the middle of several needed repairs, to try and rent out the house but I won’t be able to pay tax and/or finish repairs, if I don’t sell enough personal items, to cover. So, I’m also considering trying to sell my house, “As is”.

      Comment


        #4
        Make sure the book is recent (at least 2015 or later).

        The FLMB (Middle District) guide should be as informational as anything from the FLSB (Southern District). The key is that you have to file the schedules and they have to be completed considering all of your income, assets, exemptions and creditors.

        Since you have a home valued over $500K, you should really thing about filing with an attorney. While the Florida Unlimited Homestead Exemption protects 100% of the value of your home, it will only do that if you have been a Florida resident (homesteaded) for 2 years or more. I'm going to assume that's the case and that you can use the Florida Constitutional Exemption.

        Your household goods will only be protected to $1,000. So it would be better to do your own liquidation and use the money to pay for your living expense and perhaps to pay for an attorney. Another reason to hire an attorney is because you are also thinking about selling the home. You need to be careful with the proceeds of a sale, so the attorney may recommend waiting to sell after the bankruptcy is discharged and closed. Be very careful with any transfer of property during this time as some are tempted to try to "hide" the property from the bankruptcy estate (or creditors).

        My guess is that you may need to sell the home if you're no longer able to earn an income. You may need to take on part-time employment just to cover the basics, but the home may be a good solution. However, the end game is important. If you are young (less than 55, no where near retirement), it will become difficult to survive on the proceeds of the home over a long period of time. The status of your retirement account (401K or IRA) may become more important if this will be your retirement.

        You should arrange 3-5 free consultations with area bankruptcy attorneys just to get a feel for what they think. You are under no obligation to hire any of them.
        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


          #5
          Thanks!

          Actually, the most recent edition of that Nolo book available locally appears to be 2013.

          Great, I’ll look over the FLMB guide, appreciate the link!

          Yes, in home for more than 2 years and all attorneys, so far are confident it’d be exempt; and have advised, if I’m going to sell, not to do so, until after filing...Or sell before filing, to pay off debt, but I’m not sure I have time before I start getting served, because been in default since October.

          My household goods, probably not worth more than $1000, at this point, so that’s part of the problem. My concern, about getting a job, before filing, is creditors garnishing my pay.

          I guess, I’m still young, 54 this year. But, status of retirement accounts is zero balance, so I hear what you’re saying about long term survival, on proceeds, if I sell the house. I’ve spoken to 3 lawyers, locally, so far but they all need to be paid, upfront before filing.
          Last edited by o10845236; 02-04-2019, 02:46 PM.

          Comment


            #6
            I spoke with FLSB (Southern District), about how to get started filing chapter 7, Pro Se, and they referred me to: Clerks Filing Instructions.

            They told me, I have to start, by doing the following:

            1) Complete an approved credit counseling course.
            2) File form 101 "Voluntary Petition for Individuals Filing for Bankruptcy".
            3) File form 121 "Statement About Your Social Security Numbers".
            4) Provide "Creditor Matrix" i.e. list of creditors; names & addresses ONLY (There is no form).
            5) Pay $335 filing fee.
            If unable to pay the filing fee in full, I can use this court’s local form LF-03 "Application to Pay Filing Fee in Installments", to apply for filing fee in 2 installments, or I can request an application fee waiver, by filing form 103B “Application to Have the Chapter 7 Filing Fee Waived”.

            After I file these, they will contact me with written instructions, on how to complete filing and I'll have 14 days, to do so.

            Before, I contact the court again and wearing out my welcome...


            As for creditor's addresses, all of my creditors are credit cards; which typically show two addresses, on statements, one to mail payments and another, as return address. Should I provide the return address, rather than the address, to mail payments to or is there another address, I should be looking for?

            Also, if I end up owing money to utilities, cable, internet, phone, etc., can I add them to creditors list?

            Comment


              #7
              Or, you can follow the FLMB guide and submit the entire petition with all the requisite schedules completed on day 1. I must admit, this is the first time that I've read where a Clerk's office tells a Pro Se to just file a "skeleton" petition and they'll send them instructions on completing the filing. In most cases, those so called instructions are actually a notice that a filing is incomplete (a deficiency notice) and that the missing pieces are due within 14 days.

              For creditor addresses, just use whichever you have, whether it's the Statement or their mailing address. I tried to use their mailing address for correspondence.

              You can add utility companies to the list and petition as well. The issue may be that they will require a deposit within 20 days of filing (they'll let you know). For phone and internet, i didn't have to pay a deposit despite including them. For water and electricity, they were not happy and they made me pay a deposit which was sizable.
              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


                #8
                Thanks!

                Apparently, when I asked the FLSB where I do start, they quite literal, as I'm reading through their filing instructions it says "Certain documents are required at the time of initiating the filing and are indicated by an “*”. The other required documents may be either filed at the time of the initial filing or by the deadlines stated in the federal statutes, rules and local rules and orders."

                The forms I listed above are the ones required at the time of initiating the filing that are indicated by an “*”, in the FLSB instructions. But, I'm thinking, I'd rather take your advice and and submit the entire petition with all the requisite schedules completed on day 1, so I'm going to look over the FLMB guide again.

                As for creditor addresses, yes, I decided to use their inquiry mailing address, as well.

                Hoping I won't have to add utility companies, but just had to sell scrap metal to pay electric and water, which I was late on, and not sure how I'm going to pay anything moving forward. Also just missed my 1st auto insurance payment and concerned about policy getting cancelled, which would lead to driver's license suspension.

                If you don't mind me asking, how many water & electric payments did you miss? Did they stop service? How sizeable were the deposits required within 20 days of filing?

                Also, if I take on part-time employment just to cover the basics, can't that pay just be garnished?

                Comment


                  #9
                  I was one payment behind on both (paying on the "final" due date or we'll cut off your electricity/water). It was sizeable. Back then, my monthly electric bill in the summer was over $800/month and my water bill was over $200/month.

                  Any employment can be garnished to a certain point. There's a minimum amount you have to make and then they can garnish a certain amount of the remainder. If you make under (I think) about $225/week, then they can't garnish you at all. Please verify my numbers as I'm just using the numbers that I used years in the past. A garnishment can't be calculated until your taxes and certain other deductions are taken into account. That's why it's hard to garnish people making less than a certain amount.
                  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


                    #10
                    It sounds like your case is too complex, and the risk too great to attempt a pro-se filing. I would suggest NOT declaring bankruptcy until and unless you are able to afford hiring an attorney. You should consider selling off any personal property which will not be exempt, and using the proceeds to pay for living expenses, or to pay an attorney.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by justbroke View Post
                      I was one payment behind on both (paying on the "final" due date or we'll cut off your electricity/water). It was sizeable. Back then, my monthly electric bill in the summer was over $800/month and my water bill was over $200/month.

                      Any employment can be garnished to a certain point. There's a minimum amount you have to make and then they can garnish a certain amount of the remainder. If you make under (I think) about $225/week, then they can't garnish you at all. Please verify my numbers as I'm just using the numbers that I used years in the past. A garnishment can't be calculated until your taxes and certain other deductions are taken into account. That's why it's hard to garnish people making less than a certain amount.
                      Thanks, appreciate you sharing the numbers. My monthly electric in summer is about $175, water about $75.

                      As for garnished employment; I’ll look into amounts, and try to confirm. Some questions that brings to mind are, when can garnishment take place? After served? After judgement? Can filing stop it?

                      Originally posted by bcohen View Post
                      It sounds like your case is too complex, and the risk too great to attempt a pro-se filing. I would suggest NOT declaring bankruptcy until and unless you are able to afford hiring an attorney. You should consider selling off any personal property which will not be exempt, and using the proceeds to pay for living expenses, or to pay an attorney.
                      Thanks, for your input. I’m trying to sell what I can, but it’s not going well. Also, looking into Pro Bono opportunities in my county.

                      What sounds too complex about my case?
                      Last edited by o10845236; 02-09-2019, 11:49 AM.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by o10845236 View Post
                        As for garnished employment; I’ll look into amounts, and try to confirm. Some questions that brings to mind are, when can garnishment take place? After served? After judgement? Can filing stop it?
                        Garnishment can only take place after a judgement, and after the court approves the garnishment.

                        Originally posted by o10845236 View Post
                        What sounds too complex about my case?
                        As I wrote above, you have a juicy asset. Despite it being covered by FLorida's unlimited homestead exemption, I would not like to see a legal mistake somewhere, where the Trustee can get at the title! Whenever someone has a juicy asset, I always say to file with an attorney.



                        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


                          #13
                          Originally posted by justbroke View Post
                          Garnishment can only take place after a judgement, and after the court approves the garnishment.

                          As I wrote above, you have a juicy asset. Despite it being covered by FLorida's unlimited homestead exemption, I would not like to see a legal mistake somewhere, where the Trustee can get at the title! Whenever someone has a juicy asset, I always say to file with an attorney.
                          Thanks!

                          I’m having trouble coming up with money to pay for an attorney. While looking into Pro Bono options, I found the following article, about a non-profit named “Upsolve”. Wondering, if anyone here has used them and if they’re a legitimate alternative?

                          From: ProPublica
                          When You Can’t Afford to Go Bankrupt
                          by Paul Kiel March 2, 2018

                          “...Upsolve is a kind of TurboTax for bankruptcy, walking debtors through the process of gathering the necessary documentation and asking questions in plain language. The software populates the small stack of forms necessary to file, and then a lawyer reviews them. Cases are filed pro se, but if complications arise, the debtor can get help from the lawyer...”

                          Comment


                            #14
                            FWIW: I filled out Upsolve's online questionnaire, to see if I qualify, for their free help but I received the following reply, so I'll continue looking into Pro Bono and/or free legal aid opportunities, in my area, through Bankruptcy Bar Association of The Southern District of Florida and Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida.

                            "We think a free consultation with an attorney or getting free legal aid help is a good idea.

                            Upsolve can't help homeowners in most states. But a fresh start may still be in reach! Through our special partnership with LegalZoom, we can connect you to a private attorney in your zip code who has agreed to provide a FREE consultation. You’ll learn more about the options you have available to you, and you have absolutely no obligation to pay unless you hire them.

                            We also think it is important for you to see the free options available to you. If you click Get Help below, we will also send you information on how you may be able to get free assistance from a legal aid nonprofit.".

                            Comment

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