As with all departments of US legislation, bankruptcy is an ever-changing legal process. Because the status of finances and the economy are rapidly transforming with the development of new technology, new energy, and new ways to spend, save, and make money, the laws that govern how debt is handled must change accordingly. Since 2005 the laws, standards, and procedures of bankruptcy have changed significantly. If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN, it’s important to understand how bankruptcy law works today. Behm Law Group, Ltd. provides the legal advice and assistance necessary to successfully navigate bankruptcy.
The most recent changes made to bankruptcy law came in 2005 when Congress amended the bankruptcy code for purposes of determining how consumer households file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and how Chapter 13 repayment plans are structured. These changes included the following.
Means Test and Income Measurement
Before the 2005 overhaul, individual filers could choose the type of bankruptcy that worked best with their situation (in their or their lawyer’s opinion). This allowed filers with high incomes to benefit from Chapter 7 bankruptcy in a way that was perceived to be unfair to creditors. Namely, Congress believed that people with higher incomes could enter into a Chapter 13 repayment plan and pay at least something to their unsecured creditors. Today, all filers are required to take the Means Test to analyze their income for the 6 month period prior to the month in which their bankruptcy petition is filed. The bankruptcy code requires an attorney to add up all of a filer’s gross income for the pre-bankruptcy filing 6 month period and then determine an average. Then, the bankruptcy code requires an attorney to multiply the average by 12 to determine what a filer’s yearly projected income is and analyze it against the state average income for a household of the filer’s size. If the filer’s income is in excess of the state average income for a household of the filer’s size, then the person would probably have to file a Chapter 13 instead of a Chapter 7. For instance, presume a single person needs to file for bankruptcy relief and that he or she earned gross monthly income of $5,000.00. Presume further that the state average income for a household of 1 in Minnesota is $52,785.00. The bankruptcy code would require the attorney to add up the $5,000.00 for the preceding 6 months which would be $30,000.00. Then, the bankruptcy code would require the attorney to determine the monthly average which would be $5,000.00 ($30,000.00 divided by 6).
Next, the bankruptcy code would require the attorney to multiply that average by 12 which would be $60,000.00 to determine the filer’s yearly projected income. Since the $60,000.00 would exceed the state average income for a household of 1 in Minnesota of $52,785.00, the filer would probably be required to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy because he or she would not have passed the Means Test. The monthly income average is measured against some expenses and payments of some debts, so it’s still possible for filers with a high income to qualify for Chapter 7. If a filer doesn’t qualify for Chapter 7 and must instead file for Chapter 13, the expenses of a household are still subtracted in the total of disposable income that must be used to repay creditors through a Chapter 13 repayment plan.
Another notable change made with the 2005 bankruptcy overhaul was the requirement of all filers to undergo credit counseling before a petition is filed. The United States Trustee office must also approve the counselors who offer this service. This is necessary requirement irrespective of whether you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. A counselor may offer an advisable repayment plan in cases of Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but filers are not obligated to follow those plans.
These changes made in 2005 were also accompanied by several other minor details but overall, they were designed to create a situation of fairness for all parties involved in a bankruptcy case. For more information about the changes made or for help with filing for bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.