Risks of Filing for Bankruptcy Without a Bankruptcy Attorney in Waseca, MN

If you’re struggling to meet loan payments and bills alongside daily living expenses, bankruptcy is an option for individuals, business owners, and corporations alike. Designed to liquidate assets, discharge debts, reorganize expenses, and generally give the filer a fresh start while maintaining the fair treatment of creditors, bankruptcy in the U.S. is a process that can fix a lot more than most realize. As American citizens, our freedoms extend to self-representation in all courts of law, including the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts. Utilizing the counsel and support of Behm Law Group, Ltd.’s bankruptcy attorneys in Waseca, MN when filing for bankruptcy, however, can protect you from the potentially costly errors you may make through self-representation.

Representing yourself and filing your own bankruptcy petition is an option, but it can mean you’ll be taking many risks. At the very least, it can be difficult to reach optimal results in your bankruptcy case without the help of a trained professional.

Filing your own bankruptcy petition means you risk case dismissal or court prejudice and forgo the protection of an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

Mistakes When Filing for Bankruptcy:

Mistakes on the required paperwork are the most common reasons a case is dismissed. Gathering the necessary information about household or business income sources, debts, loans, assets, properties, and expenses can be a difficult process. Bankruptcy attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources to put together a flawless petition with no room for inaccuracies. Self-representation, on the other hand, offers countless opportunities for small mistakes that may lead to case dismissal. Misrepresentation of finances can appear as fraudulent and can provide a basis for the court to reject your bankruptcy petition.

Protection When Filing for Bankruptcy:

One of the roles of a bankruptcy attorney is to provide legal protection for clients. Business or individual, all filers may be experiencing aggressive collection action from lenders. The automatic stay in a bankruptcy case halts collection action for a period of time, but some creditors may petition the bankruptcy court for the lifting or termination of the automatic stay for certain debts. If approved, those creditors can collect or repossess collateral. A bankruptcy attorney can protect a client from harassment and aggressive actions by creditors, collection agencies, debt collectors, and any other lenders before the automatic stay is lifted.

Above all, a bankruptcy attorney offers expertise, experience, knowledge, and legal protection. Forfeiting your right to attorney protection and guidance may result in a less than successful bankruptcy case.

We’ll take a critical part in creating a positive outcome for your case from beginning to end. Relieve the stress of managing your own bankruptcy case and eliminate risks of failure. Contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200 for more information about working with an expert bankruptcy attorney in Waseca, MN.

 

 

Limitations of the Automatic Stay When You File for Bankruptcy in Windom, MN

Whether you file for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy or Chapter 13 debt reorganization bankruptcy, you benefit from the immediate action of the automatic stay as soon as your bankruptcy petition is filed. The automatic stay is a wonderful tool designed to prevent creditors from collecting on debts that may be discharged or restructured during the bankruptcy process. It also prevents collections and blocks harassment from your creditors during the period of your bankruptcy case. If you’re struggling financially, the short-term effects of the automatic stay and the long-term effects of bankruptcy as a whole might be a viable option for recovery. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers legal advice and assistance when you file for bankruptcy in Windom, MN.

The automatic stay provides a wide range of advantages (link to blog post “The Power of Automatic Stay When You File Bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN”) along with its ability to prevent your creditors from collecting debt payments during the stay period. In addition to the many ways the automatic stay can help you, however, there are some things it cannot do, including:

1. Halting certain lawsuits.

Lawsuits that affect minors (i.e. children of the parties involved) are protected against most financial proceedings, including bankruptcy. For example, the automatic stay cannot stop a lawsuit that involves paternity or child custody tests, nor can it stop a lawsuit that attempts to modify, collect, or confirm child support payments.

2. Halting certain tax requirements.

The automatic stay can’t alter or prevent IRS tax audits or issues regarding tax deficiency. Additionally, the automatic stay cannot prevent the IRS from demanding your tax returns and demanding payment for taxes owed.

3. Halting wage garnishment for pension loan repayment.

If you took out a loan from your retirement pension, the automatic stay doesn’t stop the garnishment of your income (including wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, and any other sources of income) for the repayment of that loan. This is the only condition where the automatic stay is not effective in preventing wage garnishment.

4. Halting criminal sentence proceedings.

If you’re in the process of undergoing criminal proceedings involving debt, or otherwise, the automatic stay is only able to impact the conditions of your sentence that involve debt repayment. The automatic stay does not change the parts of your sentence that involve community service, therapy, jail time, or other requirements.

Despite the many advantages of the automatic stay, these situations remain unchanged during the stay period when you file for bankruptcy. Additionally, if you’ve filed for bankruptcy the previous year, the automatic stay period will end after 30 days, unless you can prove the need for an extension.

If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in Windom, MN, and want to learn more about how the automatic stay can apply to your situation, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd., at (507) 387-7200 today for more information.

The Power of Automatic Stay When You File Bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN

Most Americans over 30 have around $150,000 in various debts including mortgages, car loans, credit cards, medical bills, taxes, and other accumulated debts. This debt can often begin to cripple the quality of life for individuals and families who cannot maintain regular debt payments and still meet standards for necessary expenses. If your financial obligations become overwhelming, the advice of a bankruptcy lawyer can set you on the right path to debt relief and a fresh beginning. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers legal support from start to finish when you file for bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN.

When you declare bankruptcy, the automatic stay is immediately set in motion. The automatic stay prevents your creditors from collecting debt payments, harassing you over missed payments, or filing lawsuits against you. It works, essentially, to prevent your creditors from doing anything to collect their debts.

In many cases, automatic stay has the power to alter your financial situation in several ways. This includes:

  1. Halting garnishment of your wages from all parties until the stay is lifted. This prevents any garnishment from all your sources of income including salaries, wages, pensions, commissions, bonuses, and retirement funds.
  2. Halting an eviction process until the stay is lifted. Your landlord cannot evict you based on failure to pay rent during the period of your automatic stay. If your landlord obtained a court order against you for eviction or wrongful possession before you filed for bankruptcy, however, the automatic stay does not stall the process. Additionally, in the case where you’re in poor favor with your landlord for misuse of property, going against lease terms, endangering other tenants, or selling illegal items on the property, the court will side with your landlord, and the automatic stay will only be in effect for a short time.
  3. Halting a foreclosure until the stay is lifted or bankruptcy discharges your mortgage or establishes a new payment plan. If you are delinquent with your mortgage payments and you plan to keep your house, you could pay those past due mortgage payments back in a chapter 13 plan and cure or bring current your mortgage obligation. If you want to simply surrender your house and discharge your mortgage debt, Chapter 7 will allow you to do that. The mortgage creditor would foreclose on your house and any debt you owe on the house would be discharged.
  4. Halting utility shut-off until the stay is lifted. For at least 20 days from the start of your bankruptcy petition the automatic stay prevents your water, gas, and electricity providers from shutting off your utilities. This period could be extended throughout your bankruptcy case during the winter months.

For more information about the legal assistance Behm Law Group, Ltd. can provide when you file for bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN, contact us at (507) 387-7200 today.

Debt Punishment of the Past Compared to Today’s Bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN

For as long as the concept of trade has been around, so has the concept of debt. Today, debtors have a wide range of options to recover from financial difficulties. Filing for bankruptcy is one of the most viable options for debt recovery we have as US citizens. Bankruptcy is designed to handle a filer’s debts in a process that provides fair treatment of creditors’ claims and results in a manageable situation for the filer. At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we have seen the system of bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN, prove its worth time and time again with each successful financial recovery our clients make.

We provide legal support with Chapter 7, 12, and 13 bankruptcies for community members and businesses in Mankato, MN, and the surrounding Southern Minnesota area, and we stand by the value of a successful bankruptcy case in helping our clients recover.

While the system of bankruptcy is a great option today, the debtors of the past didn’t have things so easy. In fact, there has been a wide range of harsh punishments for debtors throughout history.

A few of the most notorious punishments for debtors in history include:

  • Debt Slavery Laws: Up until 326 BCE, “debt slavery” in Rome and Greece was a common practice. Because there was no option for bankruptcy, debtors would instead pledge their labor as a security interest on loans. Creditors could take advantage of this security pledge and keep debtors in a slave-like internment until they could repay their debts. Slave bondage could even be passed from parent to child.
  • Death Penalty: Under the reign of Genghis Khan, debtors were given even fewer choices if they could not repay their loans. While they had the option to declare a form of relief akin to bankruptcy, after the third declaration, they were sentenced to death.
  • Medieval Penalties: Colloquially known as the Dark Ages, the medieval times have a reputation for hard conditions and harsh punishments. Debt punishments were no exception and included anything from flogging and branding to execution.
  • Imprisonment: Today, debts are not often associated with prison. Even fraudulent behavior in a bankruptcy case will most likely result in no harsher penalty than the dismissal of that case or the denial of debt relief. In Victorian England, however, failure to pay debts was punished with prison sentences or with exile to the British Empire’s “prison island” of Australia.

Debtors in today’s legal system can rest easy and know that they have many options to settle financial woes through the system of bankruptcy. Whether you qualify for Chapter 7 liquidation or Chapters 12 and 13 reorganization, the process of bankruptcy can turn the tides of unmanageable debt.

Contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 for expert support and legal counsel from beginning to end when you choose to file for bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN.

Getting Through the Holidays During Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN

From October to January, national spending on holiday decorations, parties, and gifts increases by an average of $500 to $1,000 per person. This extra spending during the holidays is a luxury that many consumers may take for granted. Families living below the poverty line often struggle to make ends meet during the holiday season more than any other time of year, and households working through Chapter 13 bankruptcy have fairly strict options for spending during the holidays. If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN, or if you’re working through a Chapter 13 repayment plan during the holiday season, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to restructure your debts into a manageable repayment plan, and it can be a highly effective process for resolving debts without crippling the debtor. When it comes to extra spending, however, the budget of a Chapter 13 plan can make things difficult.

Spending Limits

The problem with a Chapter 13 repayment plan during the holiday season is the limitation on disposable income. When you propose a repayment plan to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, you disclose all of your debts, expenses, and income.

Your income is broken into categories of discretionary and disposable. The income you would normally spend during the holidays is a part of your disposable income, but during a Chapter 13 repayment period, most of that income must be used to repay your unsecured creditors.

Repayment plans last three to five years, and despite the rise in national spending during the holidays, your budget must be built around the requirements of your plan. Your budget in a chapter 13 case will have some cushion such that you will be able to use some of your disposable income to purchase gifts, etc. during the Holiday Season.  However, during a chapter 13 case there’s naturally going be to less room for spending money on gifts, decorations, or any other holiday luxuries than would be the case if one were not in a bankruptcy proceeding.  Most of your disposable income still must be applied to the benefit of your unsecured creditors.

Ways to Spend

There are some options that make it possible for your household to have holiday spending money during a Chapter 13 plan:

  • You can modify your repayment plan for a month or two and use the excess money on holiday festivities
  • You can borrow certain amounts from your 401(k) and resolve to replace that amount when your repayment plan period ends
  • When you receive your tax refund, your trustee will take most of that income since it’s considered disposable income, but will often leave a decent part of it for you to save or spend. If you plan ahead, this saved money can be used during the holidays

While these options may not be advisable during any other time of the year, it might be worth having holiday cheer to take advantage of these options.

If you’re considering filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you throughout the process and offer legal advice and support for spending options during the holidays. Contact us at (507) 387-7200 today for more information.

Filing for Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, with an Income of $100,000

Bankruptcy in the U.S. is designed to help those struggling to meet their financial obligations and debt payments each month. Because bankruptcy is generally linked with extreme financial circumstances, it’s a process that’s often associated with low incomes and financial destitution. There are many cases, however, when an individual has a high income yet still qualifies for bankruptcy. Even if you have a steady, high income, bankruptcy might still be the right option for you. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers legal advice and counsel to those considering filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

Many reasons exist why an individual consumer in the American economy might have accumulated debts they are unable to handle. Credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and medical bills are the most common causes of debt that can lead to a bankrupt household, even with a high income supporting that household.

The median income in 2017 was approximately $60,000 a year, but with the financial pressure of debts, bills, and everyday expenses, many households that earn median or higher incomes struggle to make ends meet.

A recent NPR story interviewed several households across the country. Each household in this story had an income higher than the national median, yet each still faced financial difficulties. The balances of the household debts and incomes were close, and many had higher debt-to-income ratios than families who get by just fine on incomes lower than the national median.

Because of this debt-to-income ratio, each of these households could benefit from filing for bankruptcy and receiving debt relief in the form of liquidation (Chapter 7) or debt reorganization (Chapter 13).

Chapter 7 With a High Income

It’s possible for households with an income higher than the state median to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Most households that qualify will often have incomes lower than the median, which allows them to automatically pass the Means Test. However, you can still sometimes pass this test if your total monthly household income is less than your total monthly household living expenses.

Chapter 13 With a High Income

If you don’t pass the Means Test, you may still file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy your debts will be restructured, and you’ll only be required to repay a fraction of your overall total debt.

Even if you have a high income, you may still benefit from filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200 for more information about filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

Filing for Bankruptcy in New Ulm, MN, as a Military Personnel or Veteran

All government employees, including military personnel, have the same rights to file for bankruptcy as any other citizen of the U.S. In some cases, members of the military and veterans even have additional benefits and options during the process of filing for bankruptcy than other citizens. Despite government pensions, salaries, benefits, and other financial support systems that military personnel and veterans have access to, sometimes it isn’t enough. Financial problems and debt can accumulate over time or happen suddenly when unforeseen expenses arise. With the help of Behm Law Group, Ltd., filing for bankruptcy in New Ulm, MN, is an effective method of recovery from financial struggles as a military veteran.

While members of the military and veterans follow the same rules and processes of bankruptcy as other citizens for the majority of cases, there are certain circumstances where they have additional benefits.

  1. Active-Duty Military: If you’re on active duty and file for bankruptcy, you’re protected under the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This act provides legal protection and may allow the courts to postpone or stay bankruptcy proceedings while you are in service overseas. The effect of automatic stay is also still active in addition to the benefits of the SCRA.
  1. Disabled Veterans: If you’re a disabled veteran, you’re not required to pass the Means Test to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. As a disabled veteran with debts primarily incurred while you were on active duty or in homeland defense, you’re exempt from taking the Means Test. Government-rated disabilities at 30% or higher, or discharge from duty because of disability will allow you to forgo the Means Test when filing for Chapter 7.
  1. Call to Active Duty: There are other cases that exempt military personnel from taking the Means Test when filing for Chapter 7. If you’re on reserve duty or a member of the National Guard and you’re called to active duty, or were in homeland defense 90 days after the 9/11 attack, you can forgo the Means Test during and 540 days after active duty.

As a U.S. citizen—civilian, military personnel, or veteran—the support system of financial recovery through bankruptcy is designed to be an option for all that qualify. If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in New Ulm, MN, military personnel or not, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help. Contact us at (507) 387-7200 today for more information.

Cross-Collateralization and Bankruptcy in Jackson, MN

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, your debts will be categorized as those securing purchased properties (secured debts) and those that do not involve tangible property (unsecured debts). Your creditors will also be categorized similarly, depending on which type of debt you owe to each. In the case of debt owed to a bank or credit union, categorization varies based on “collateral.” Behm Law Group, Ltd. works to determine how collateral may affect you when you file for bankruptcy in Jackson, MN.

Collateral

When you take out a loan through your bank or credit union, you give a security interest to that creditor. In the case that you fail to make payments on your loan, your bank or credit union can seize the property in which it has a security interest and sell it to satisfy the debt owed. In such a situation, such property is called “collateral”.

Collateral and Credit Unions

Banks and credit unions have two marked differences. First, credit unions do not operate for profit as banks do, and second, credit unions offer borrowing services that may include cross-collateralization clauses. Essentially, a cross-collateralization clause states that the security interest and a particular item of collateral may be connected to all your debts through your credit union.

This means that you may be able to take out a loan on a car from your credit union and you may also have credit card debt through your credit union card provider. A cross-collateralization clause may be attached to one of those debts tying the two together. Even if you pay back the full debt on your car loan, that car may still be sold as collateral if you stop making payments on your credit union credit card.

Debt Categorization and Cross-Collateralization

Cross-collateralization through a credit union can change the way your debts are categorized, which will, in turn, change the way those debts are handled in a bankruptcy case. For example, if you take out a loan through your bank to purchase a car, that debt is a secured debt because it is tied to and secured by the car. If you have credit card debt through that same bank, it is considered an unsecured debt because it is not secured by or connected to the car. In a Chapter 7 case, unsecured debts like credit card debts are discharged completely, and in a Chapter 13 case, you will only have to repay portions of those debts. However, if your car loan and credit card debt are taken out through a credit union and the credit union has a cross-collateralization clause, they both are considered secured debts. This means you will be required to repay both debts if you want to keep your car in a Chapter 7 case and to repay both debts in a Chapter 13 case.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy in Jackson, MN, and have multiple loans through a credit union, you may have a situation where a cross-collateralization clause is involved. Contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today for expert advice and legal assistance in your bankruptcy case.

Treatment of Your Annuity When You File for Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN

When you file for bankruptcy, every aspect of your financial situation and all of your income and all of your debts are subject to review. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers legal assistance and counsel in navigating the bankruptcy code for our community’s individuals and small businesses filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

Changes to the bankruptcy law in 2005 with the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (“BAPCPA”) made a big difference in how a bankruptcy filer’s monthly income sources, monthly living expenses, debts and assets are analyzed in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, the current law requires that all of these aspects be accurately determined before a case is filed. When it comes to annuities, pensions, and retirement plans, the 2005 BAPCPA changes may help one determine one’s long-term options for one’s financial future after bankruptcy.

Understanding Annuities

Even if you own an annuity, it may not be fully clear how that account works or what type of annuity it is or what taxation rules apply to it. Annuities are investment accounts that regularly pay specified amounts to the owner from the total lump sum of money originally deposited in the account. The installments from an annuity are commonly scheduled to be paid out on a monthly basis, but they can also be paid out on a weekly or yearly basis.

Annuities are designed to help manage large amounts of money, safely containing the sum and providing a fixed income stream to the beneficiary of the annuity account. Common annuity accounts contain retirement funds, proceeds from insurance claims, proceeds from lawsuit settlements, and lottery winnings. The payments of an annuity can be made immediately upon the setup of the account or they can be deferred to start after a set period of time.

Annuity Exemptions in Bankruptcy

If you file for bankruptcy and you own an annuity, the annuity may or may not be protected by the bankruptcy exemptions.  Depending on the type of annuity involved and depending on the rules of taxation that apply to it, the following could apply:

  1. First, your annuity may qualify for exemption from the case. Because an annuity is a source of income, it becomes an asset in a Chapter 7 case. If your annuity is exempt, you may keep that account and protect the value from liquidation to repay creditors. If you file for Chapter 13 and can exempt your annuity, the value of that account may not factor in calculating the amount you will pay back to unsecured creditors in your repayment plan.
  2. Second, your annuity may not qualify for exemption from the case. This means the value of the account will be used to repay creditors in a Chapter 7 case, and in a Chapter 13 case, the account value will play a part in determining how much you will have to pay back to your unsecured creditors in your repayment plan.

Federal exemption laws allow the immediate exemption of tax qualified retirement plans and offer a Wildcard Exemption of potentially up to $13,200.

Whether your annuity qualifies for exemption when you file for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, depends on a number of factors. To learn more about how your annuity will be handled in bankruptcy, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.

The Role of a “Bankruptcy Estate” When Filing for Bankruptcy in Worthington, MN

In every type of bankruptcy case, whether a Chapter 7 case or Chapter 13 case, a separate, distinct legal entity called the “bankruptcy estate” is created by operation of 11 U.S.C. §541 of the bankruptcy code.  This “bankruptcy estate” is in fact a separate, legal being from the person filing for bankruptcy relief.  When a bankruptcy case is filed, all a filer’s property is thrown into the bankruptcy estate.  In other words, when a person files for bankruptcy relief, all of that person’s property actually belongs to the bankruptcy estate.  However, the drafters of the bankruptcy code did not want a person to emerge out of the bankruptcy process completely destitute and without any property to reorganize. Therefore, the bankruptcy code provides for various value allotments or value limitations called bankruptcy exemptions that allow a filer to reclaim property back out of the bankruptcy estate and retain it.  In most cases, a person’s bankruptcy exemptions will be sufficient to allow one to retain all of one’s property.  If you are thinking about filing for bankruptcy in Worthington, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd. provides legal advice and assistance throughout the process.

Chapter 7 Estate: If you qualify for Chapter 7, the bankruptcy trustee appointed by the bankruptcy court to administer your bankruptcy case will review all of your property in the bankruptcy estate and analyze whether some of the property will not be able to be protected with your bankruptcy exemptions.  To the extent that some of the property can’t be protected with your bankruptcy exemptions, that property will be labeled “nonexempt”, and the trustee will be able to sell it and distribute the value to your creditors.

Chapter 13 Estate: Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to restructure your debts into a manageable payment plan that lasts three to five years. The bankruptcy trustee, you, and your lawyer will work together to draft a repayment plan that the court will approve. A feasible plan is determined by your types of debts, your exemptions, and the value of the property in your bankruptcy estate.

What Makes Up the Bankruptcy Estate?

The property included in a bankruptcy estate is determined by Section 541 of the bankruptcy code. Although each bankruptcy case and each bankruptcy estate is different, the bankruptcy estate can be comprised of the following:

  • Real estate properties
  • Motor vehicles and vehicles of trade
  • Personal property items (clothing, jewelry, appliances, etc.)
  • Financial accounts
  • Security deposits
  • Properties loaned to another party
  • Wages, commissions, tax refunds, and other sources of income to which you are entitled
  • Income from rented properties
  • Asset value appreciation
  • Applicable community property
  • Applicable payments made to creditors before filing for bankruptcy
  • Property acquired within 180 days of filing for bankruptcy

Because these exact properties can vary from case to case, it may be difficult to determine which assets are exempt from your bankruptcy estate and which will not be exempt.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy in Worthington, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today to learn more about the different chapters of bankruptcy and how your bankruptcy estate may be determined.