How Much Does It Cost To File For Bankruptcy in the Tampa Bay area?
This is probably the second most common question after "Do I Qualify For Bankruptcy"? It makes sense that the cost of filing for bankruptcy is at the top of your mind. You are dealing with a difficult financial situation and you have to wonder "Can I afford to file for bankruptcy?"
Bankruptcy Is An Investment
Here's something to consider: Bankruptcy is not an expense. It's an investment that can increase your net worth.
You may have heard of the term "net worth." Net worth is simply the value of all of your property minus the amount of all of your debts. Having a positive net worth is a good thing because it means that you have a nest egg that you can use for retirement, buying a home, or other important milestones.
Most things that you buy are expenses because you do not pay for them with the intention of improving your net worth. If you buy a flat screen television, your quality of life may improve because you can now watch your favorite shows in high definition quality, but a new television set will not help you to achieve your financial goals.
On the other hand, if you wipe out your debts in bankruptcy, you immediately improve your net worth. After receiving a bankruptcy discharge, you can stop worrying about your bill collectors and you can start planning for your future. This is why people say that bankruptcy gives you a "fresh start" on life.
Don't Hire A Law Firm Based On Price Alone
Here's something else to think about: Although price is certainly an important factor, you should not select a bankruptcy law firm based on price alone. If you needed life-saving surgery, would you choose the cheapest hospital that you could find? Or would you be more concerned about the quality of care that you would receive? At Suncoast Law Office, your bankruptcy case will be prepared from start to finish by an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, not a law clerk, paralegal, legal secretary, or petition preparer. When you have questions about your case, you will talk directly with a lawyer, not support staff.
Watch Out For Bankruptcy Petition Preparers
Beware of hiring cheap bankruptcy petition preparers to help you file your bankruptcy case. These are the companies that advertise on Craigslist and on roadside poles with unbelievably cheap prices like "$99 Bankruptcy". Petition preparers are not lawyers and they are not allowed to give you legal advice. Relying on these services to prepare your bankruptcy case can be a recipe for disaster. Some of these companies have gotten into legal trouble for unlawfully giving bad legal advice to their customers. Petition preparers are only allowed to sell you court forms (that are available for free online) and type whatever you tell them to type. Would you hire a typist to do your taxes if he couldn't give you tax advice, sold you IRS tax forms that you could download for free, and simply typed whatever numbers that you told him to type?
At Suncoast Law Office, we strive to offer excellent service at affordable prices to our clients throughout Tampa Bay (Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, and Pasco County). We cannot guarantee your legal results (no law firm can), but we will devote all of our professional skill and training to get you the best possible result.
Your exact cost of filing for bankruptcy with us will vary, depending on the type of bankruptcy case you file (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13) and the complexities of your particular case. Your bankruptcy costs can be divided into four categories:
At Suncoast Law Office, we offer flat attorney fees for filing bankruptcy, which means that you pay one price from start to finish. Some law firms bill for legal services on an hourly basis. With hourly billing, your total legal costs can be hard to estimate because they will vary depending on how long it takes to resolve your case. We offer flat attorney fees to give our clients peace of mind as to how much they will pay.
Our current flat attorney fees for typical Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases are listed below and are current as of September, 2015. Please note that our fees are subject to increase in the future and the fees in your case may be higher, depending on the complexities of your case.
Typical Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Fee, Including Court Costs: $2,000* (as of 3/9/2017)
* $2,205 for a married couple filing a joint case
To get started with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will pay a retainer fee of $100. This retainer fee will allow Suncoast Law Office to begin representing you. Upon payment of your retainer fee, you can immediately tell your bill collectors to stop calling you at home and at work and to call us instead.
After you pay the retainer fee, your remaining fee due for a typical Chapter 7 bankruptcy case will be $1,900. This includes the remaining balance of attorney fees, the court filing fee, the credit report fee, and the online questionnaire fee. Your fee will be higher if your case is unusual (for example, if you need to file your case immediately or if you own a business). This higher fee will be discussed with you and you will be given a written quote before you sign up with our firm. Your remaining Chapter 7 attorney fee can be spread out in affordable weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly installment payments, depending on your budget needs.
Here are some examples of paying off a remaining $1,900 bankruptcy fee over six months:
Your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case cannot be filed until your fee is paid in full. This is because a law firm cannot legally collect unpaid attorney fees after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case has been filed. Run for the hills if a law firm advertises that you can pay your unpaid Chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney fees after filing your case (for example, by asking you to give it post-dated checks to be cashed after filing your case) because they are violating the Bankruptcy Code!
Typical Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Fee, Including Court Costs: $4,218 (3-Year-Plan) or $4,568 (5-Year-Plan)** (as of 3/9/2017)
** For a married couple filing a joint case, the fee is $4,238 (3-Year Plan) or $4,588 (5-Year Plan)
To begin a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, your retainer fee will be $100. Once you pay your retainer fee, you can immediately instruct your bill collectors to leave you alone and to contact us instead.
After you pay the retainer fee, your remaining fee for a typical Chapter 13 bankruptcy case will be $4,118 for a 3-year Chapter 13 repayment plan or $4,468 for a 5-year Chapter 13 repayment plan. This includes your attorney fee, court filing fee, and credit report fee. There will be a higher attorney fee if your case is unusual (for example, if you want to modify your first mortgage to lower your monthly home loan payments or if you want to wipe out a second mortgage). This higher fee will be discussed with you and you will be given a written quote before you retain our law firm.
Don't worry if you can't afford to pay the entire Chapter 13 bankruptcy fee in full before we file your case. Most people can't. After you make your $100 retainer fee payment, you can make affordable weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly fee payments. We can file your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case once you have paid as little as $2,000 toward your full bankruptcy fee.
Once your Chapter 13 bankruptcy case is filed, you can pay off the balance of your attorney fee over time as a part of your repayment plan. This is a major difference between the Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy laws because in Chapter 7 cases, the Bankruptcy Code prohibits law firms from collecting unpaid attorney fees after the case has been filed.
Chapter 13 Trustee Fees: 10% of Monthly Payments
In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, a Chapter 13 trustee will make monthly payments to your debt collectors based on your Chapter 13 repayment plan. For this service, the Chapter 13 trustee will charge you a fee of 10% of your monthly payment amounts. Your trustee fee will vary depending on the amount of your monthly plan payments. You will not pay monthly trustee fees in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
Additional Typical Costs:
For both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, you will be required to take a credit counseling course before filing your case and a debtor education course after filing your case. These courses range in price, depending on which course provider you choose, but they typically cost about $20 for both courses, if you take the courses online.
You may incur other costs depending on your individual situation. These costs will be explained to you in writing before you retain our firm.