Holding on to Retirement Plans and Pensions When Filing for Bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN

Sometimes financial difficulties arise when least expected, and tackling the burdens of debt can prove more and more trying as time passes. Even with the relief that the U.S. Bankruptcy Code can provide to households and individuals in need of debt alleviation, the stripping of assets with debt liquidation or the reorganization of debts with repayment plans does not solve all problems. If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can provide assistance with your petition so you can make the best out of a sticky situation.

For the majority of bankruptcy cases, pensions and retirement plans are left untouched. The U.S. Bankruptcy Code was designed to protect the filer as much as possible during and after the bankruptcy process, including shielding all pension funds and retirement plans with only a few exceptions.

Non-Exempt Pensions

The few pensions that do not qualify for an exemption from bankruptcy filings include the following:

  • Employee Stock Purchase Plans (ESPP)
  • Plans that are not considered legitimate retirement plans under sections of tax code indicated in the bankruptcy process
  • Plans that are not fully funded or that are incorrectly funded
  • Plans that are not in compliance with tax code in any other way, including roll-overs or transfers and plans without approval from the Internal Revenue Service
  • An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) inherited from anyone not your spouse

Automatically-Excluded Pensions

There are many types of pensions that are untouchable during the bankruptcy process because they are considered excluded from your asset stockpile (your estate). As such, you do not need to claim them as exempt, but you should still offer information about these accounts to your trustee and attorney.

Automatically-excluded pensions include the following:

  • Plans under IRC 414(d) (most government retirement plans)
  • Plans under IRC 567 (most deferred compensation plans)
  • Plans under IRC 530(1)(b) (most educational IRAs)
  • Plans under IRC 403(b) (most tax deferred annuity plans)
  • Plans that qualify under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)

There are also several forms of non-excluded retirement funds and pensions that you can claim as exemptions in your bankruptcy case; however, these codes change between state exemption laws and federal exemption laws. You can elect to choose either state or federal exemptions when you file for bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN, depending on which will benefit you most in the long term. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can provide the legal advice you need to make these kinds of decisions throughout the bankruptcy process. Contact us today at (507) 387-7200 for more information.

Getting Rid of Tax Debts with Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN

Tax debts are a common problem for most struggling with accumulated financial burdens. Because taxes are so varied and ultimately required of every U.S. citizen able to work and own property, the debts associated with taxes are equally varied and unavoidable. While most of the time you cannot discharge tax debts with bankruptcy, there are times when it’s possible to treat those debts with Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you determine if and how your tax debts can be cleared when filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

Although possible, it can be difficult to discharge your tax debts with bankruptcy. Only when your case meets several requirements can your tax debts be discharged.

Requirements for Discharging Tax Debts:

  1. Your tax debts must be income tax debts. While you may have several other types of tax debts, only your income tax debts can be discharged with Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  2. Your tax debts must be three or more years old. If your tax debt was due at least three years before you petition for bankruptcy, these debts can be considered for discharge.
  3. You must have filed a return for your tax debt at least two years prior to filing your bankruptcy petition. This return must have been filed on time, your extensions cannot have expired at the time of filing, and the IRS cannot have filed a substitute return for you.
  4. You cannot have committed any purposeful fraud or evasion on your tax return at the time of the incurred tax debt. If courts determine you have used any means of illegal tax fraud, you cannot qualify for tax debt discharge.
  5. You must have your tax debt examined by the IRS 240 days before filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This is called the 240-day rule, and is designed to determine whether your tax debt qualifies for discharge based on the previously listed rules. Your tax debt may also qualify for the 240-day rule if it has not yet been assessed before the time of your bankruptcy petition.

If, and only if, your tax debts meet ALL of these conditions can they be discharged with Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you’re planning on filing for bankruptcy to rid yourself of primarily tax debts, be aware of the strict conditions. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you through the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Mankato, MN. Contact us today at (507) 387-7200 for more information.

What to Do When Creditors Harass You After Your Chapter 7 Debt Settlement in Windom, MN

Those who have accumulated debts they can’t handle alone often find rescue in filing for bankruptcy. Today’s U.S. Bankruptcy Code is designed to protect individuals and businesses from falling into even more critical financial situations. The idea of being bankrupt can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth and, while one might not enjoy having to go through bankruptcy process, there are many benefits. Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy alleviates debt and opens the door to a fresh start financially. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you through the process of filing for bankruptcy and completing your debt settlement in Windom, MN.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is designed to discharge the majority of your debts and allow you to retain your assets. With this form of bankruptcy, you will have a clear beginning, middle, and end of the process.

Do debts still matter?

When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your debts are addressed, and when the process is over, your debts won’t come back into your life. They are permanently discharged.  The only lingering effect of Chapter 7 bankruptcy is that your case will stay on your public credit profile for 3 to 6 years. After filing for Chapter 7, the debts that were discharged are gone forever.  You will not have to handle other financial consequences from the debts discharged in your case.  Paradoxically, you will be more of an attractive credit risk for creditors than you were before your case was filed.  This is because future creditors know that the creditors discharged in your bankruptcy are gone for good and that they will now be able to be first in line for payment from you going forward and will not have to be in competition with your previous creditors.

In short, the debts addressed in a Chapter 7 case don’t matter anymore. You don’t continue making payments, and you won’t be in contact with your creditors again.

Why are my creditors still harassing me?

But if your debts don’t matter after you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, why are your creditors still in contact with you, and in many cases, still harassing you? There are several reasons why this might be happening. Most of the time, your creditors haven’t heard that you’ve entered into the bankruptcy process yet. Even if your case is not completed, your creditors are legally obligated to stall collections. However, it can take up to two weeks for your creditors to be notified that you’ve entered into the process. If it’s been over two weeks and your creditors are still harassing you, they may be trying to get away with illegal collections. Creditors may try to take advantage of your lack of knowledge about the nuances of bankruptcy by telling you that you filed for the wrong kind of bankruptcy, that your debts aren’t covered by your case, or that you still have to pay interest on a settled debt. Behm Law Group attorneys protect our clients from this fraudulent behavior as we work with you through the bankruptcy process.

If you’re considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you’re concerned about your debt settlement in Windom, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today for a consultation.

How Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Waseca, MN, Affects Types of Small Business Ownership

Small business owners are some of the bravest adventurers when it comes to finances. Not only does starting a small business often require a large investment in the form of a loan or personal funds, but the liabilities of starting and maintaining a small business are numerous. Sadly, many entrepreneurs are unable to keep expenses balanced with revenue, especially during the first few years of a startup. Although bankruptcy is a common occurrence for small businesses, the outcome of bankruptcy will change depending on the type of business and the ownership status. At Behm Law Group, Ltd., our attorneys work to protect small business owners throughout the process of filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Waseca, MN.

For most small businesses, there are three main forms of ownership. Each type of ownership is affected differently when the business enters the process of Chapter 7 bankruptcy:

  • Sole: If you own your business, you are the sole proprietor. As a sole proprietor, your finances are linked with your business finances. If your business (or you) are over your head in debt, you can only petition for a personal case of Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It’s not possible for your business to file for bankruptcy alone because there is no separate, distinct business entity apart of you, so the process must combine your personal and business debt into one case. You can, however, prevent many of your assets from being liquidated with your bankruptcy exemptions.
  • Partner: If your business is a partnership, it still is not a separate entity from you and your partner’s personal finances. When filing for a Chapter 7 partnership business case, the process is not really any different from a personal case. In partnership business bankruptcy, the partnership debts are collectible against you and all partners personally and your personal assets must also be listed in the bankruptcy petition.  However, you can still protect your personal assets with your bankruptcy exemptions.
  • Corporations and LLCs: A business owned as a corporation or an LLC is a separate and distinct legal entity from you and, therefore, it must file for a separate business bankruptcy.  In such a bankruptcy, however, there are no exemptions that can benefit the corporation or LLC. The trustee handles liquidation for corporations and LLCs. If your business is an LLC, you are required to eliminate any of your own debts with a personal bankruptcy case before filing a business case.

Filing for bankruptcy can give you the financial relief you need when there are no other options. For more information about filing as a small business for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Waseca, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200.

What, When, and Why With the Wildcard Exemption When Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN

When it comes to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the idea established with the bankruptcy code was to find a balance between the discharging or getting rid of one’s debts and allowing one to retain enough assets to reorganize and not endure further financial hardship.  Indeed, it would not make much sense and it would not be of any public benefit to take all of a one’s assets.  In such a case, the person would only continue to struggle and could not get back one’s feet.  Certain precautions and allowances have been set in place to protect a person against complete destitution after Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Exemptions for qualifying properties are the saving grace for someone who files for bankruptcy relief. At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we can work with you to determine which exemptions would apply to your particular circumstances when filing for bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN.

There are several kinds of exemptions that you can use when filing for bankruptcy relief.  There are exemptions provided by the laws of the State of Minnesota and there are exemptions provided by the bankruptcy code. One exemption that allows you to protect certain assets from liquidation is the wildcard exemption.

What is the wildcard exemption?

When you file for bankruptcy relief, there are several exemptions that apply to specific types of property to prevent liquidation of those assets (e.g. homestead exemption or motor vehicle exemption). The wildcard exemption is a non-specific exemption that you can use to protect one or more assets from among several types of properties.  It is a spill-over or catch-all exemption that allows you to retain miscellaneous property for which there may not be a specific exemption.  In addition, it can allow you to double up on property. For instance if you own 2 vehicles, you could use the motor vehicle exemption to protect the first vehicle and the wildcard exemption to protect the second vehicle.  Alternatively, you could use the wildcard exemption to protect an asset, such as a snowmobile or a boat or a weapon, where there is no specific exemption that can be used to protect it.

When can you use the wildcard exemption?

Because the Minnesota exemption laws do not have a wildcard exemption, a bankruptcy filer can only use the wildcard exemption if one chooses the bankruptcy exemptions provided under the bankruptcy code. The current federal wildcard exemption amount is set at $1,250, but can change based on application. For example, when used in combination with one’s homestead exemption, one may use the federal wildcard exemption amount plus up to $11,850 of one’s unused homestead exemption amount for a total of $13,100.  One can use the wildcard exemption on any one item of property or one can split the amount between multiple items of property.

For example: If one owns a car worth $4,000, and one does not owe anything on the car, one’s equity is $4,000.  In this case, one could use the motor vehicle exemption of 11 U.S.C. §522(d)(2) to protect $3,775 of this amount and then use part of the wildcard exemption of 11 U.S.C. §522(d)(5) to protect the other $225.  Also, if one has a second car worth $5,000, one can use an additional amount of the wildcard exemption of 11 U.S.C. §522(d)(5) to protect it, too.

Why does the wildcard exemption exist?

The bankruptcy exemptions, including the wildcard exemption, were put in place to protect US citizens from irreparable loss and destitution. In the long run, allowing bankrupt individuals to keep assets with which to reorganize will in turn prevent unemployment from growing and keep the economy from falling.

For more information about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN, and how exemptions can help you keep your property, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200.

Motor Vehicle Exemptions and Keeping Your Vehicle When Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Relief in Redwood Falls, MN

At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we have often found that our clients considering bankruptcy know they could benefit from filing for Chapter 7 but balk at the idea of possibly losing some of their assets.  However, the concern about losing assets is often exaggerated.  The drafters of the bankruptcy code understood the need for households to hold on to some of their assets to prevent the bankruptcy process from doing more harm than good and to allow people to retain assets with which to reorganize their lives and maintain their financial security.  Thus, the drafters of the bankruptcy code included various exemption laws, which are very generous, that allow people to retain assets in bankruptcy. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you work through the process of filing for bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN, including identifying which exemptions can be applied to your case.

One major concern of those entering into the process of Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the potential loss of their motor vehicle.  For many families and individuals, the loss of a vehicle means the loss of any means of transportation.  However, 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(2) of the bankruptcy code allows for the exemption or retention of a motor vehicle. It is more accurate to state that the exemption allows the retention of an equitable interest in a motor vehicle rather than the retention of the vehicle itself.

The exemptible equity in your car is determined by its current market value balanced with the amount of your car loan. For example, if you own a car worth $5,000 and have a loan balance of $2,000, your motor vehicle equity is $3,000.  This $3,000.00 would constitute equitable interest that would be protected by or exempted with the applicable bankruptcy exemption.   It is possible to have $0 in equity if your loan is equal to the value of your car and it is possible to have a negative equity if your loan is greater than the value of your car. For instance, if your car is worth $5,000.00 and there is a $5,000.00 or $6,000.00 loan against it there would be no equity to protect or exempt with the applicable bankruptcy exemption.

Federal Exemption

The Federal motor vehicle exemption of 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(2), among other federal exemptions, changes every three years according to economic conditions and other factors. The current motor vehicle exemption amount is $3,775.  This means that if you have equity in your car less than the exemption amount, the bankruptcy trustee administering your bankruptcy case would not be able to take your motor vehicle, sell it and use the sale proceeds to pay a dividend your creditors.

Minnesota Exemption

In Minnesota, those filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy have the option of choosing either the federal exemptions or the Minnesota exemptions. The Minnesota motor vehicle exemption clocks in at a maximum of $4,600 in equity. The amount increases up to $46,000 for vehicles that accommodate physical disabilities and are eligible for handicapped parking spaces (but only if changes made to the vehicle are more than $3,450).

The bankruptcy exemption laws are designed to help you find ways to keep your motor vehicle and other assets, even if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief. For more information about exemptions you may qualify for and for help with filing for bankruptcy relief in Redwood Falls, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.

How Divorce and Filing for Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, Affect Each Other

Bankruptcy affects individuals of all economic statuses, and the people involved in a bankruptcy case or struggling financially are also often facing many other challenges in their lives. Unfortunately, low income and high debt—according to  statistics—are a leading cause of weakened relationships. At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we’ve found that some of our clients are facing the struggle of divorce alongside the imminent difficulty of filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

The problem with divorce law, when it comes to bankruptcy proceedings, is that both deal with finances between spouses. It’s virtually impossible to handle the process of divorce at the same time as the process of filing for bankruptcy. The real question isn’t how to combine the two together, rather, which legal process to tackle first.

Bankruptcy before Divorce

Most divorces are not the dramatic affairs portrayed on television. In the real world, spouses are often on good terms. If on good terms, we recommend that bankruptcy proceedings take precedence over divorce. Filing a joint petition as spouses means your debts are consolidated into one bankruptcy case. Combining your debts means you and your spouse could increase your chances of qualifying for Chapter 7 along with your exemptions. It also means you and your spouse can get rid of joint contracts you don’t want and eliminate your unsecured debts before divorce.   Most couples file for chapter 7 bankruptcy relief prior to starting a divorce because a bankruptcy can simplify the divorce process as there is no need for provisions for the assignment of debts in a divorce decree.

Divorce Before Bankruptcy

If your joint income is high enough to prevent you and your spouse from qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief and you’re on poor terms and don’t want to be forced into a chapter 13 bankruptcy and handle chapter 13 repayment plan after your divorce, you should consider completing divorce proceedings before filing for bankruptcy. Spouses can separately qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief after divorce because there are increased living expenses.  After a divorce, each spouse must support his or her own household on his or her own income instead of combining two incomes to support one household while married.  In addition, sometimes it is better to have marital assets divided as between spouses in a divorce proceeding prior to filing a bankruptcy proceeding.  Also, if one spouse winds up owing child support to the other spouse after a divorce the child support obligation can help the spouse who has to pay it qualify for chapter 7 bankruptcy relief when, otherwise, he or she would not be able to qualify.

For more information about how divorce can affect bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.

Navigating the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 and Qualifying for Bankruptcy With the Help of a Bankruptcy Attorney in Fairmont, MN

Since the mid-80s, the commercial world has changed considerably as digital consumerism streamlined the way we spend money in the US. To address issues with these unprecedented technological advances, the US government had to respond with new laws. When it comes to US bankruptcy, the Bankruptcy Code was amended in 2005 to protect consumers and eliminate several forms of perceived bankruptcy abuse. The skilled bankruptcy attorneys at Behm Law Group, Ltd. have practiced since long before 2005, and with our experience, we can help you navigate the process of filing for bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN.

The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA) considerably changed the process of filing for bankruptcy relief.

BAPCPA and what came with it:

The most notable changes that came with the addition of the BAPCPA were the standards set in place to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Prior to the BAPCPA, consumers with any income could qualify for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy. Because of the rapidly fluctuating economy and credit payment systems, a lot of bankruptcy abuse came to light during the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. In 2005, the BAPCPA established the Means Test, which prevented filers with net disposable incomes higher than the state median income from qualifying for Chapter 7. Other major changes made with the BAPCPA include lengthened waiting periods between bankruptcy petitions and the requirement of a credit counseling course that all people must take in order to qualify for bankruptcy relief. Find out more about the changes made with the BAPCPA here.

How it affects Chapter 7:  

Because the BAPCPA established stricter requirements with the Means Test, waiting periods, and more, it made it much more difficult to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If the courts find that a case is abusive to Chapter 7 code, the case will be dismissed or converted into another type of bankruptcy. The BAPCPA also limited the use of the automatic stay provisions of 11 U.S.C. Sec. 362 in most cases, the types of debts discharged, the types of liens a bankruptcy filer could avoid, homestead exemptions, and other exemptions bankruptcy filers could claim.

How it affects Chapter 13:

By making it more difficult to qualify for Chapter 7, the BAPCPA forced more bankruptcy filers to enter the process of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Expenses for the administration of a repayment plan under Chapter 13 are deducted in the Means Test and credit counseling is also required for Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers under the BAPCPA. The most significant change for debt reorganization was the increase in the amount of debt required to be repaid with Chapter 13.

Overall, the BAPCPA of 2005 significantly changed bankruptcy code. This act and many others have made today’s standards for bankruptcy more difficult to process without the help of a professional. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you work through bankruptcy with a skilled, experienced bankruptcy attorney in Fairmont, MN. Contact us at (507) 387-7200 for more information.

Why the Small British Car Company Zenos Went Bankrupt and Why It Matters for Small Business Bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN

In today’s technology-rich digital age, small businesses have more expenses than ever before. While these expenses all open up incredible marketing and product design outlets for small businesses, the increase in number and variety of expenses also leads to an increase in the potential for going into debt. If you own a small business that’s deep in debt, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you file for bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN.

Because the commercial system of today’s world has grown so complex, it’s inevitable that many businesses struggle and fall into debt. For example, the sports car company Zenos—a tiny enterprise by the standards of the auto industry—recently declared bankruptcy. After losing a major investor and having several orders for their new model of the E10 cancelled in the US, Zenos was left with debts racked up from product building and marketing expenses.

Quality Product: Despite the technologically-sound craftsmanship of the Zenos E10 models, cars widely considered to be potential rivals of Alfa Romeo, Mazda, and even Lotus cars of similar caliber, the company continued to lose money after the release of their newest models. Of course, this is just one of hundreds of examples of popular companies with great products falling off the industrial map, proving time and time again that a quality product doesn’t get your business off the ground and running forever. What it really comes down to is money, and a substantial amount of money for small businesses comes from investors.

Investors: In the case of Zenos sports cars, the company gathered a loyal cult following of fans of unique cars who appreciated the well-crafted Zenos products. Unfortunately, while a cult following is often the sign of an innovative product, it also frequently can’t support a company as whole. When the small batch of investors that Zenos largely relied upon could no longer support their investment, the company quickly lost money, and the straw that broke the camel’s back came when U.S. orders were cancelled.

Even small businesses here in Minnesota can recognize the importance of investors going hand in hand with a quality product to support all of the necessary expenses.  

Debt Payment: Zenos is on the market for new investors, and if the company can find one, they will be able to start a debt repayment plan under UK bankruptcy codes. However, without proper cash flow, Zenos—just like any other bankrupt small business—will have to liquidate its assets in order to discharge debts.

If your small business is struggling financially with no possibility of meeting debt payment requirements, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you work through filing for bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN. Contact us today at (507) 387-7200 for more information.

The Top 3 Mistakes Made on the Minnesota Means Test When Filing for Bankruptcy in Jackson, MN

Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be incredibly beneficial for those who are struggling with credit card debt, unmanageable mortgages, and most other forms of accumulated debt. Financially, Chapter 7 discharges the majority of your debt and liquidates your non-exempt assets in order to pay your creditors. While these may seem like drastic measures, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can effectively reset your financial standings, giving you the best restart you could expect. Behm Law Group, Ltd. understands that debt can come from many different sources, and if you need to file for bankruptcy in Jackson, MN, we’re on your side for legal advice and assistance throughout the process.

When you file for bankruptcy as an individual, the most common options you can choose between are Chapter 13 (debt reorganization) and Chapter 7 (debt/discharge/asset liquidation). To those with a low income or with no way of continuing to pay their debts even with a debt reorganization plan in place, Chapter 7 is the most attractive and viable option. To qualify for Chapter 7, however, you must pass the state Means Test with a disposable income lower than the median income of an equivalent Minnesota household.

Without legal support and advice like the help Behm attorneys can provide, the Means Test can prove difficult, nuanced, and complex. Even those with a low income have failed to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after making these common mistakes on the Means Test:

  1. Many people list child support on their Means Test that they are supposed to receive but do not for one reason or another, and this can completely change the test results. The same goes for those who list child support they are supposed to pay but do not. You should only list what you receive and what you pay.
  2. Household sizes are frequently listed inaccurately on Means Tests, and this can change the recorded outcome of who depends on your disposable income, altering the results of your test overall. Your household size is most frequently determined by who is legally dependent on your disposable income (e.g. minors or disabled dependents).
  3. Often accidentally, Chapter 7 filers list an incorrect income. This in itself can render you ineligible. To even be considered for the outcome of the Means Test, your recorded income MUST match your actual income. Dates, exact numbers, recorded paychecks, and all sources of income should be detailed as exactly as possible.

There are many other mistakes found on Means Test reported across the country, and those who are considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can gain a lot from professional assistance. Behm Law Group, Ltd. is here to help. Contact us at (507) 387-7200 for more information about filing for bankruptcy in Jackson, MN.