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Bankruptcy Lanigan & Lanigan, P.L.
831 W. Morse Blvd., Winter Park, Florida 32789

407-740-7379

E-Mail Eric A. Lanigan HereE-Mail Roddy B. Lanigan Here
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Orlando Bankruptcy Attorney 

Bankruptcy FloridaFiling bankruptcy in Florida requires an experienced attorney who will be able to protect assets while eliminating debt through a complex Federal court process. Winter Park bankruptcy attorneys Eric Lanigan and Roddy Lanigan walk clients through bankruptcy handling all paperwork, court and legal details.

When you meet with the Lanigans you’ll be asked several questions to determine whether you qualify to file bankruptcy. You’ll undergo the Florida Mean Test to clarify your assets, debt and you’ll complete a questionnaire which you must answer honestly regarding:

    • Your monthly income
    • Property owned 
    • Debt owed on property
    • A thorough list of creditors and what is owed
    • Business and personal bank account information 
    • Vehicle values 
    • Amounts owed on vehicles
    • Investments 
    • Assets
    • Credit Card, Mortgage, Bank Account information
    • This and last year’s tax returns
    • Small business owner P&L last year & this year 

Upon receipt of all information from you, the Lanigans file bankruptcy papers and within three to six months the bankruptcy is completed. Your financial slate is cleared for you to rebuild your economic future.

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Causes of Bankruptcy 

The causes of bankruptcy are always due to overwhelming debt problems–often from credit cards–but not from credit cards alone. No one files bankruptcy after charging up credit cards irresponsibly. That bankruptcy is caused by credit cards is a fallacy but a common belief. Often, the reasons for carrying large amounts of debt vary greatly and no one has the same problem. Why? Everyone has a different lifestyle, income, debt ratio, assets, problems.

For example, maybe you just went through a divorce. Maybe you’re one of the many in Florida who have lost your job or have been downsized and receive less income. Maybe you’re working several jobs to cover your income lost via layoffs.

A major and primary cause of bankruptcy is due to high medical debt due to an illness that is not covered by insurance. A car accident with an injury, a horrible inherited disease, sudden illness, cancer or long-term disability, can change a person’s finances forever.

Usually debt gets out of control when people turn to credit cards to pay for everyday bills like food, the mortgage or rent and living expenses. The Lanigans find that people are not spending carelessly and putting frivolous charges on a credit card. People are just trying to survive and make ends meet any way they can and credit cards can pay the bills.

The leading causes of bankruptcy are due to debt from: 

  • Job or income loss
  • Medical bills due to serious illness
  • Credit card bills
  • Divorce
  • Natural disasters (Hurricane, floods) 

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Florida Bankruptcy Attorney

Bankruptcy occurs among people of all ages and all levels of income. If you are trying to hire a Florida bankruptcy attorney, you are not alone. Florida has been No. 2 in the nation behind California since 2007 in the number of bankruptcies filed. 

Eric Lanigan has been practicing Florida law since 1976 and is in the office in Winter Park, Florida. With additional bankruptcies, foreclosures, and mortgage workouts Roddy Lanigan joined the Florida law firm in 2007. The bankruptcies have continued regularly with people trying to dig their way out of debt and after long struggles have decided that bankruptcy would work to help them rebuild. 

Hiring a Florida bankruptcy attorney is a big choice and while many people would like to bargain shop and try to pay the least, the true issue is that bankruptcy is held in a Federal court. The bankruptcy Chapter 7, Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 that is filed by the bankruptcy attorney that you hire will decide the assets you keep, the amount of money the creditors get from you, and what the court will take from you to appease creditors. The more skilled and experienced the bankruptcy attorney, the more likely you are to be able to keep more of your assets. 

There is no promise, no guarantee that you can keep what you have, but you increase the chance for success with the best possible Florida bankruptcy attorney. At the end of the day there is no shame in filing bankruptcy. Bankruptcy was built into the legal system to help everyone wipe the slate clean when fate turns against the financial success that everyone has a right to pursue and obtain. The American dream is to work hard, save money and retire. When the economy turned downward in Florida, many people and businesses suffered beyond repair. Bankruptcy can offer a new start.

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FL Bankruptcy & Foreclosure Lawyer 

It’s important to find a FL bankruptcy & foreclosure lawyer with extensive experience as Eric Lanigan and Roddy Lanigan have.  When you go into Federal court to file bankruptcy or defend against a Florida foreclosure you need an attorney with firsthand skill in litigating financially-based real estate and personal finance issues that revolve around the economics of the state.

For example, you don’t hire a friend who’s a tax attorney to tackle bankruptcy because you feel bankruptcy is a financial issue. Tax law is a unique practice just as bankruptcy law is very specific and the attorney must be very familiar with bankruptcy law. It would be as if you went to an internal medicine doctor when you truly need an orthopedic surgeon: both doctors, both skilled but in unique and different areas. 

Bankruptcy is a Federal Court legal matter which in Florida and all other states requires knowledge of Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Using a top Florida bankruptcy attorney is the first step toward keeping as many of your assets as possible. There are key 

By working instead with Eric Lanigan, a Florida bankruptcy and foreclosure attorney with the more than 35 years of experience, you have the  added benefit of the attorney who has handled many bankruptcies–thousands–who regularly practices in this area.

The Florida bankruptcy attorney needs to knows how to litigate in the Florida bankruptcy system and tackle the quirks, the twists and turns that can occur regularly in bankruptcy law. There are intricate rules, laws and details specific to what a client can keep in a Florida bankruptcy.

There is also a key facet of Florida foreclosure law–litigation–which requires an exceptional amount of ability in the rules of evidence which decide every case. All cases that go before a judge will rely upon the attorney’s ability to show that the foreclosure paperwork, the legal process or the entire foreclosure is faulty, has errors and problems that demonstrate that the lawsuit is flawed.

Florida foreclosure laws changed in June 2013 which makes foreclosure litigation, foreclosure defense more difficult and complex for homeowners. Any homeowner receiving that first phone call from the bank about the foreclosure is completely distraught, often humiliated and embarrassed. There are apologies, many pleas and usually an attempt to negotiate with the bank or lender to allow more time.

The lender’s usual response is, NO deals. Your ensuing response and line of answers, options and questions will only weaken your stance. Stop talking. Hang up and contact Eric Lanigan and Roddy Lanigan experienced Florida bankruptcy & foreclosure attorneys.

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Credit Card Debt and Bankruptcy

Credit cards are used to supplement a loss of income when there is a sudden or ongoing need for income that has been caused by extenuating circumstances and debt. Debt, on occasion overspending, but many times, simple desperation cause people to use and often overuse credit cards to pay for or buy everyday items.

Florida families are struggling, individuals are having a very challenging time paying bills that have grown to such levels that the debtor is distraught and worried.

There’s a spiral downward when the first line of defense is to turn to the credit card to pay for everyday expenses. People using credit cards are generally not compulsive spenders, but desperate heads of families, mothers, fathers who need to put food on the table after a financial problem.

Maybe there was a car accident that left both parents severely injured with massive medical bills and childcare and home care help needed that is not covered by car or health insurance.

There are life incidents that no one can plan ahead for. If you are someone who doesn’t have insurance have huge medical bills.

Credit card debt and bankruptcy may start with a reduction in a home’s value to a bad divorce, or loss of an income in a two-income family. They’re all issues that are outside of your personal control. In general, nine out of 10 clients are very responsible people who pay their bills. But the credit card comes in just to supplement the loss of an income. People have to eat, pay electric and phone bills, mortgage and it could be a medical issue and the bills from it. Credit card debt rarely happens from indiscriminate or careless spending.

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Surviving on Credit Cards

The cause of financial struggle is usually a downturn in someone’s business, or a medical problem, or loss of income. It’s usually unsecured debt that causes the problem which is spurred by the bad economy. People are struggling and surviving on credit cards.

The other cause is that Florida real estate values have plummeted. If people had any equity in their home, they don’t now and some people will never be able to develop equity in their home again. If someone buys a condo for $250,000 and next door the condo sold for $30,000, how do you ever get yourself pulled out of that? It’s devastating.

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Credit Card Guilt

Extensive credit card debt is often a key reason people file bankruptcy. The Lanigans find that it’s also very common for people to feel guilty about the credit card debt they have accrued. They really do. They feel like they should pay for every penny. There’s a sense of credit card guilt and a sense of responsibility for the debt.

Credit card debt is an unsecured debt. The creditor took a risk when they issued that card to an individual. For whatever reason, the deal didn’t work out. They’ve calculated accordingly and that’s why they’ve charged you a higher interest rate.

People feel bad and want to make good on the commitment and promise to pay. But when a medical issue causes the loss of a job and there’s a loss of income and possibly–and the Lanigans often see this–a second loss of income…There’s nothing you can do. It’s out of your control. What are you supposed to do?

The credit cards lose but they calculate that risk into the deal with you.

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Filing Bankruptcy in Florida

Nobody ever comes into the Lanigan’s office happy about filing bankruptcy in Florida. But they’ve found that in 95% of bankruptcy cases a financial problem outside of a person’s control has happened to cause the massive debt: death, divorce, illness,  job loss; something’s happened to turn the apple cart upside down.

It’s not your fault. In what they’ve seen in the last few years it’s all about the economy going in the tank. Debt and loss has been faced by Floridians who are effected by the state economy. This is particularly true for anyone in real estate, like an architect, a builder, land owner. Florida has been hard hit.

It’s like you’re like a passenger on a bus and the drunk bus driver runs off the road, flips the bus over, you get injured. He gets off the bus and gets handed a bonus check and you’re on the bus, you’re cut and bleeding but you’re at the hospital apologizing for what happened.

It’s all right that you’re here filing bankruptcy in Florida. You don’t have to sneak in the door or hide your face in shame. It’s really OK and thousands of people file bankruptcy daily across the U.S.

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Experienced Bankruptcy Attorney

Bankruptcy is held in a Federal Court so hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney to handle it rather than try to do it yourself. Bankruptcy is a highly dangerous environment to be in by yourself. You’re talking about going up against a highly skilled lawyer. The bankruptcy trustees you will face are either lawyers or accountants. They’re all highly intelligent people that are very adept and good at their jobs.

Their primary role is to get assets from individuals or businesses to pay creditors. You’re going up against a professional and you’d better have a bankruptcy attorney who knows exactly what they’re doing.

There’s more to bankruptcy work than just filling out a form. It’s thinking about a case; thinking about what assets you have; and often times it involves negotiating with a trustee. You’re going to want an experienced lawyer to make those negotiations for you.

Buy-back agreements require adept, careful review and familiarity with tactics of the trustees whose goal is to get everything they possibly can for a creditor.

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Federal Bankruptcy Court

Bankruptcy is a serious situation because you’re going into a Federal Bankruptcy Court. You’re in a process where you’re in front of a judge who’s been appointed by the President of the United States. Your opposition is a member of the Department of Justice who’s being charged with getting all your assets to pay a creditor.

It’s important to have an attorney, a highly skilled and experienced attorney in that situation. You don’t want a hand holder or a good listener. You want someone who’s going to figure out what’s best for you in accordance with the law and the truth.

People have a tendency to think that they’re the only one in the world with this problem but they’re not. Thousands of people file bankruptcy in the United States every day.

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Bankruptcy Types

There aren’t simple answers regarding bankruptcy and all cases vary greatly but there are two basic bankruptcy types for individuals and families: Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is often called a liquidation bankruptcy, however, rarely does a liquidation of assets occur. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a repayment bankruptcy that requires you to submit a repayment plan to be approved by the court in which you pay back creditors over a three- to five-year time frame.

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy is also known as a business reorganization and is filed by businesses, not individuals.

When you go in to consult with Eric and Roddy Lanigan you’ll find out pretty quickly whether filing a Chapter 7, a Chapter 11 or a Chapter 13 will work best for you.

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Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 

If you are paying your mortgage on time, but don’t have money to keep up your payments, filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy can make your mortgage more affordable by reducing your total debt to help prevent a future foreclosure or delay it for several months. 

Known as a liquidation bankruptcy, unsecured debt may be discharged by an individual debtor in order to obtain a fresh start financially. This can be a quick and helpful option for people looking to get out from under the burden of debt.

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Bankruptcy and Unsecured Debt

Bankruptcy and unsecured debt go hand in hand. Unsecured debt can be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and includes credit card bills, medical bills, personal loans, payday loans, department store credit cards and debts where there is no property or product attached.

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Bankruptcy and Secured Debts

You can file bankruptcy and secured debts can be eliminated. Secured debts include mortgages and car payments which are typically dischargeable in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

In the state of Florida there are generally few non-exempt items an individual would have to sell to give proceeds to the bankruptcy trustee. With the right Florida bankruptcy attorney you will be given instructions on what exemptions are allowed and what items are not exempt.

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Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Details

Chapter 7 bankruptcy details include paperwork and timing which takes between three and six months, and usually includes a very brief, five-minute meeting with a bankruptcy trustee—the official appointed by the bankruptcy judge to process your bankruptcy for the court.

An individual may file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and as a debtor be allowed to keep exempt property. However, filing of a petition under Chapter 7 may result in the loss of non-exempt property.

The name Chapter 7 comes from the chapter of the federal statutes that contains the bankruptcy law (Chapter 7 of Title 11 of the United States Code).

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is called a liquidation bankruptcy because you get rid of most of your debt, but the bankruptcy trustee sells what non-exempt property you have to provide money to your creditors.

The bankruptcy trustee gathers and sells a debtor’s non-exempt assets (if there are any but usually there aren’t any) using proceeds to pay creditors in accordance with the provisions of the Bankruptcy Code.

Some of a debtor’s property, if it is secured, may be subject to liens and mortgages and possibly pledging the property to other creditors.

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Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Timeline

Here’s a typical Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Timeline:

  • Day 1 Meet with Winter Park bankruptcy attorney Eric Lanigan or Roddy Lanigan at Lanigan and Lanigan.
    • Complete legal forms listing property and creditors and detailed information about your financial transactions the prior two years
    • Lanigan and Lanigan mail current tax returns and other documents requested by court-appointed bankruptcy trustee
    • 30 days later attend creditors meeting with Lanigan and Lanigan and bankruptcy trustee. Known as the Trustee Meeting (341). Creditors rarely show up. If necessary, questions asked by Trustee will be answered by Lanigan and Lanigan. Typically less than five minutes long meeting.
    • 45 days later, mandatory participation in budget counseling in-person, online or by phone. Complete paperwork stating you’ve completed it.
    • Wait. You may not operate business with inventory or give away property without trustee’s permission until the court sends you written debt discharge. This is usually 60-90 days after the creditors meeting.
    • During this time creditors may, but usually don’t object to debts.
    • If mandated, the Trustee arranges for non-exempt property to be turned over to be sold. Many people who file don’t have non-exempt assets.

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What Can I Lose in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Debtors may have to forfeit any valuables worth more than $500 that can be sold for a cash value:

  • Second homes
  • Vacation homes
  • Second vehicles
  • Investments
  • Valuables including family heirlooms worth more than $500
  • Coin collections, stamp collections, gold

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Do I Qualify For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

There is a means test that answers this. It’s a formula that is based on salary, household size, non-consumer debt, median income for your location, secured debt, expenses and other factors.

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Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy is also known as a business reorganization which is done to save a business from extensive debt. A business has to provide creditors a plan for repaying debt in a regulated, timed, carefully explained plan.

When there’s more debt than income, many businesses restructure debt and prove reliability and responsibility to creditors.  The courts want to keep businesses working to support the economy and will evaluate what can be done for the business. A Chapter 11 debtor can also seek relief in chapter 11.

Chapter 11 reorganization, as opposed to Chapter 7, does not sell assets to cover the debt. But if a business owner is disorganized, not prepared or able to provide a realistic plan to the courts, judge may decide in favor of creditors who will become new owners of the company. Or, the court may pay off creditors and debt obligations by liquifying the company.

Chapter 11 reorganization can include canceling debts for real estate leases, unsecured loans, union contract obligations, and operational contracts. This reorganization allows the company to get out from under some debt and hopefully bounce back to becoming a profitable company learning from past debt mistakes.

Businesses that fail ultimately hurt the economy, so keeping businesses going can help a community. A Chapter 11 reorganization can refresh a business with a new start. With many businesses, the process seems overwhelming and insurmountable, but with help from Lanigan and Lanigan, companies rebound and succeed.

Chapter 11 business bankruptcy is a legal process by which a business may declare bankruptcy but continue to operate under the direction of a court-appointed trustee. The process is called reorganization, because the trustee reorganizes the business to become efficient and able to pay creditors.

The bankruptcy court may also exempt the business from paying all or part of its debts. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is usually sought and granted in cases where the value of the business is greater than the sum of its assets; in other words, the business has a significant amount of goodwill as a going concern which would be lost if the business were sold or liquidated.

In many cases business re-emerge from Chapter 11 and continue to operate normally.  In other cases, the reorganized business can be sold after some period of time.

Chapter 11 is available to any type of business, including sole proprietorships, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs), and corporations.

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Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

In a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, in short, individuals get to keep property. Creditors receive less money than is owed. You, the debtor, offer creditors a payback plan within three to five years. This plan details all transactions and the length of time and payments that will occur.

Repayment starts 30 to 45 days later. Creditors cannot try to collect an individual’s debt except in bankruptcy court. The process takes from between three to six months.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy will work for people who:
1.  Want to keep a home by proposing a feasible repayment plan that includes full repayment of missed payments.
2. Can get and stay current on a mortgage.
3. Need time to pay off some debts and who have the income to continue to pay according to requirements.

You keep all of your property in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy regardless of its value but you will have to pay off your unsecured debtors (courts, medical and credit cards).

If you are facing foreclosure on your home you have to repay what’s owed to become current on the mortgage to qualify for Chapter 13.

For a Chapter 13 bankruptcy you will have to disclose your economic transactions, your property and debts from the several years before you’ve filed.

You have to show and prove your current monthly income and proof of your disposable income and whether it is more or less than the median income in your state.

Income Decides 3- to 5-Year Plan
Your income decides the length your repayment plan will be. If your income is more than the median, your plan has to last five years but if your income is less than the median, you can try a three-year plan.

The Repayment Plan
The repayment plan you submit with your other bankruptcy papers shows the judge how you will pay off your debts.

If your income is more than the median, you must also use a form to calculate how much disposable income you will have available to commit to your plan over the five-year period.

A Chapter 13 repayment plan shows how you propose to pay your mandatory debts (debts like student loans that could not be eliminated) AND if you have sufficient income–some of your other debts over the three- to five-year period.

What Will You Repay in Chapter 13?
You have to be able to show that you will have enough income to pay debts for secure items like a home or car that you want to keep. You also have to pay in full back taxes, back child support, alimony, and any mortgage and secured debt late payments and fees.

Your plan also has to allow for total payments to your unsecured creditors that are at least as much as they would have received had you filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Your payments must be at least equal to the value of your nonexempt property, less the costs and fees that would have to be paid in order to sell that property.

Want to Keep Home or Car?
If you don’t want to sell your home or give back your car, you can minimize the amount of debt you have to repay—and you don’t have to pay back all of the back child support you owe during your Chapter 13 repayment period if the support is owed to a government agency rather than your ex-spouse or child.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy you must show:

  • A copy of your most recent IRS income tax return (or a transcript of that return)
  • A certificate showing you had credit counseling in the 180 days before filing for bankruptcy
  • The credit counseling agency’s proposed repayment plan
  • Certificate proving child support obligations
  • Proof of your residence.
  • Pay stubs 60-day period before you file
  • State and federal income tax returns from the previous four years

Length of the Repayment Period
Depending on your income, your Chapter 13 repayment plan will be completed over three or five years. Bankruptcy law has requirements on filers whose average gross monthly income in the six months before they file for bankruptcy is more than the median income. The latter will have to propose a five-year repayment plan.

Filers whose average gross monthly income for the six-month period is less than the median have a choice to file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

If  Chapter 13, these filers may propose a three-year repayment plan and may use their actual expenses to calculate how much income they will have to put towards that plan.

Filers whose income is more than the median have to offer a five-year repayment plan and standard expense amounts established by the IRS vs. actual expenses in order to calculate plan payments. Higher-income filers may have to devote more of their money, for a longer period of time, to repaying their debts.

To learn more about how to calculate your income, find out whether your income is above or below the state median and determine which expenses to use in calculating your plan

Your Attorney Helps Create Your Repayment Plan
A bankruptcy judge will only approve a Chapter 13 bankruptcy with a strong repayment plan. Creditors are entitled to all of what you owe them and other creditors may receive a smaller percentage or nothing at all if you don’t have any money left to pay after all your mandatory debts get paid.

A judge can confirm a plan that doesn’t repay any portion of your credit card debts if you won’t have any money left after paying mandatories like child support, whether you owe them to your former spouse or to the government.

An Automatic Stay
The bankruptcy court automatically issues an order preventing most creditors from taking action to collect a debt against you or your property when you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

If you have a pending foreclosure or car repossession the Chapter 13 stay can prevent the sale or repossession. An automatic stay does not apply if you’ve had two previous bankruptcy cases dismissed in the past year.

Creditors Meeting May Be Tense–For You
Creditors’ meetings last less than about 10 minutes. The creditors’ meeting is conducted by the Chapter 13 bankruptcy trustee for your court and while no judge is present the meeting is held outside of court. The bankruptcy trustee is not a judge however you have to cooperate with the trustee. 

The court schedules a creditors meeting 20 to 40 days after you file your Chapter 13.  and send notice of this meeting to you and the creditors listed in your bankruptcy papers. You have to attend and must bring two forms of identification:

  • Your Social Security number
  • A picture ID

The trustee goes over several questions spurred by your information. The trustee is likely to be most interested in the fairness and legality of your proposed repayment plan and your ability to make the payments.

The trustee has a vested interest in helping you successfully navigate the Chapter 13 process because the trustee gets a percentage of all payments doled out under your plan. So the trustee will need you to prove you have filed your tax returns for the previous four years.

When the trustee ends the questioning, any creditors who show up will have a chance to question you.

Secured creditors will probably attend, as they will likely object to your proposed plan as part of your Chapter 13 bankruptcy. They may try to say that the plan offered isn’t feasible or that you’re giving yourself too much time to repay your car note or house note.  It may be that your plan proposes to pay less on a secured debt than the replacement value of the collateral.

In any case when you file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, with Eric Lanigan and Roddy Lanigan you may rely upon your attorneys to provide complete and thorough direction, repayment plans and direction to best allow you the support you need for a successful Chapter 13.

If you want to consider a Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Central Florida consult with Lanigan and Lanigan, P.L., to find out what the best financial situation will be based on your economic history and future.

Consult with Eric and Roddy Lanigan experienced attorneys who provide legal representation with a personal touch.

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Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Timeline

Here is a Chapter 13 bankruptcy timeline:

  1. Lanigan and Lanigan file papers to begin Chapter 13 bankruptcy
  2. 15 days later a repayment plan is filed
  3. 31 days later the first payment plan is made
  4. 46 days later a creditors meeting is held
  5. 76 days later a confirmation hearing is held
  6. 106 days later another second confirmation hearing is held.

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