Understanding Fraudulent Behavior When Filing for Bankruptcy in Windom, MN

Bankruptcy relief is a very powerful remedy.  Quite literally, with a few exceptions, all of your legal, contractual obligations to pay debts are discharged and nullified.  Creditors can never pursue you for collection on those debts.  If you do everything that is required by the bankruptcy code and the associated bankruptcy rules, the debt relief you receive is a certainty.  When you choose to file for bankruptcy relief, no one comes to your house to see what you have and take inventory of your assets.  However, the benefit of bankruptcy relief is only for the “honest but unfortunate debtor”.  In other words, you must be completely forthright and honest in disclosing and listing all of your assets and all of your creditors. You’ll be required to review your bankruptcy petition and related schedules with your bankruptcy attorney and you will be required to sign off on them under oath and subject to penalty of perjury.  One way a bankruptcy case can be rejected is if one intentionally fails to list all of one’s assets and creditors.  Another way a bankruptcy case can be rejected is if one is sloppy and negligent in preparing and reviewing one’s bankruptcy petition and schedules.  Mistakes and errors in one’s sworn bankruptcy petition as a result of sloppiness or inattentiveness to necessary details can be often construed as an intentional failure to list one’s assets and creditors.  If one intentionally fails to list one’s assets and creditors or if mistakes are made due to one’s sloppiness in preparing a bankruptcy petition, one could be accused of bankruptcy fraud and the bankruptcy court could completely deny one’s bankruptcy relief.  If the supposed fraud is serious enough, one could even be prosecuted, fined and incarcerated.  Behm Law Group, Ltd.  offers expert legal advice and assistance to help you avoid conduct or mistakes that could be construed as fraudulent behavior when you file for bankruptcy in Windom, MN.

With the help of an experienced bankruptcy attorney, it’s much less likely for someone filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy to commit unintentional fraud. When you choose to complete your bankruptcy petition without professional assistance, your chances of making serious mistakes—an occurrence that can come in the form of providing inaccurate information on your bankruptcy forms and schedules, failing to attend required meetings/hearings, failing to undergo credit counseling prior to filing, or several other rare circumstances—are increased.

In addition to the several reasons you can accidentally commit fraudulent behavior on your bankruptcy petition, there are many ways one can commit willful bankruptcy fraud.

Willful Fraud

If you file a bankruptcy petition with clear fraudulent intentions, our attorneys will decline to work with you. For example, if your situation reveals that you’ve committed any of the following actions, we will not represent you:

  • Created false documents
  • Failed to list all assets
  • Withheld or destroyed documents relevant to your case
  • Hid a property transfer, including personal gifts of property that may be involved in your bankruptcy case
  • Bribed or paid-off a creditor, lender, or other party to hide information pertinent to your case

In more common circumstances, filers who willfully commit fraudulent behavior may have done the following:

  • Provided inaccurate income and expense information in a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 case or prior to filing for bankruptcy relief or when submitting credit applications to creditors from whom one may have sought a loan
  • Purchased various items, such using credit cards to engage in gambling activities, not identified as “necessities” prior to filing for bankruptcy.
  • Writing personal or business checks while planning to file for bankruptcy in a short period (i.e. writing a bad check)

If you have engaged in any of these or like activities, you must fully disclose every detail to your bankruptcy attorney before you elect to file for bankruptcy relief.  Such conduct could be a basis for a finding of bankruptcy fraud.  Indeed, bankruptcy may not even be an appropriate remedy for you to pursue.  If you’d like to discuss filing for bankruptcy in Windom, MN, and take full advantage of the debt relief benefits provided by the bankruptcy code, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.

Preference Claims and Transfers with Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Marshall, MN

In most cases, individuals and small businesses fight against filing for bankruptcy until it becomes clear that it is the most sensible option. In many cases, before the decision to file for bankruptcy is made, the filer attempts to meet or repair debts in many ways. Payments or money transfers are common occurrences before bankruptcy petitions are filed, but in some situations, those transactions might be reversed after your case is filed. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers legal advice and assistance to help you understand how your case will unfold when you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Marshall, MN.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy trustee is a fiduciary for creditors and the trustee is obligated by the bankruptcy code to ensure that the person filing for bankruptcy is forthright and honest and that he or she has listed all of his or her creditors and listed all of his or her assets. The trustee is also tasked with making sure that the process is fair for all creditors and making sure that all creditors are treated equally.

One responsibility of a trustee in the trustee’s role of making sure creditors are treated fairly and equally is to identify and recover any preferential transfers in a bankruptcy case.

Preferences 

If you have multiple unsecured creditors (creditors that do not have collateral securing the debts) in your case and, within the ninety days prior to the filing of your case, you have made payments or transfers to any one creditor totaling $600.00 or more, this is considered an avoidable preference.  This means that you have preferred one similarly situated creditor over another creditor who may not have received any payment.   If a trustee finds that you preferred one creditor over another, the trustee will be obligated to avoid the preference by demanding a refund of what you paid from the preferred creditor.  The trustee will then distribute that amount equitably among all of the similarly situated creditors.

Preference claims can either be voluntary payments you made or involuntary garnishments from your pay checks or bank accounts. For creditors labeled “insider creditors”, such as your friends or family, any payments totaling $600.00 or more made within a year of the date that your case is filed will be deemed a preference.  If you pay a friend or relative more than $600.00 within a year before your case is filed, the trustee can and will demand a refund and disburse it among all creditors.  For other creditors, such as credit cards and medical debts, known as “arms-length creditors”, payments of more than $600.00 within ninety days before your case is filed will be deemed preferential.

Strong Arm

To reverse any claims deemed to be preferences, the trustee has the right to use his or her “strong arm” powers under the bankruptcy code and undo the transactions.

If you suspect you may have made a preference payment, or if you have other concerns about your situation, you should not try to undo or reverse it.  Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you throughout the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Marshall, MN. For more information, please contact us at (507) 387-7200 today.

Understanding Priority Debts When Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Marshall, MN

Those who are considering filing for bankruptcy most likely have more than one debt to tackle among their financial obligations. In fact, virtually every bankruptcy filer faces several debts accumulated over years. From mortgages to credit card debt, filers often have a wide range of debts to repay. If these filers pass the Minnesota Means Test, they qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which allows the majority of their debts to be discharged. If you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Marshall, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you throughout the process of petitioning and filing with professional legal advice and assistance.

When it comes to discharging your debts in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the process is determined by your exemptions, your qualifying debts, and a number of other factors regarding your household status. In a case where the bankruptcy trustee is able to collect money to pay some dividend to your creditors, the question remains of how the money will be allocated. First and foremost, any financial obligations falling into the category of “priority debt” will be paid something before any other debts such as credit card debts, medical debts, etc. receive anything.   11 U.S.C. §507 sets for the priority of how debts are to be paid in bankruptcy cases.

Priority debts will be paid first.  If there is any money left after those debts are paid, then other creditors with lower priority, such as credit card debts or medical debts, will receive a dividend from the trustee. Unfortunately for the filer, most priority debts are not subject to discharge and must be fully repaid.

Priority Debts: Debts involved in individual consumer bankruptcy cases are considered priority if they are categorized as the following:

  1. Deposits up to $2,850 for property purchases, leases, or rentals
  2. Deposits up to $2,850 for services pertaining to household, family, or personal use that were not provided
  3. Alimony, child support, or other familial maintenance and obligations
  4. Wages, salaries, commissions, or other compensations owed to employees up to $12,850 per person within 180 days of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
  5. Debts owed to farmers and fishermen up to $6,325 each
  6. Income taxes owed within three years before filing for bankruptcy
  7. Taxes withheld from employees but not paid to the taxing authorities by employers
  8. Any customs, duties, and penalties due to the federal, state, and local governments
  9. Personal injury or death claims against you from driving under the influence

With the help of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys, you can navigate your own case when it comes to priority debt, asset liquidation, and debt discharge. For more information about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Marshall, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.

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.

Priority, Secured, and Unsecured Claims and How These Types of Debts are Treated With Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN

If you find yourself in a position where filing for bankruptcy is the most logical course of action for you and your family or for your business, you will also find that you have creditors to who will fall into different categories and that creditors in the different categories have different rights.  When you think of creditors in bankruptcy, you should think of them being listed in their different categories as on a totem pole.  Behm Law Group, Ltd. provides legal assistance to help you throughout the process of filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, and to protect and direct you in the face of your creditors.

When you file for bankruptcy, your creditors must file proofs of claim with the bankruptcy court to show, as a matter of public record, the type or category of debt that you have with each of them and how much you owe to each of them. These claims can fall into the following three categories.

Secured Claims: These claims should be viewed at the top of the totem pole.  When your creditor has a lien on your property (or a security interest), they can file a secured claim. Mortgages and car loans are common examples of debts with security interests attached. If you default on these types of debts, your creditors can enforce their liens and reclaim the property (i.e. house, vehicle, washer/dryer) securing their liens. Chapter 7 filers must specify in a bankruptcy form called the “Statement of Intention” whether they want to surrender property/collateral to a creditor or continue making debt payments and retain the property/collateral. Chapter 13 filers can continue paying off the debt secured by the property/collateral with their established repayment plan and in some cases even eliminate the lien their creditors have on that property/collateral.

Priority Claims: These claims should be viewed in the middle of the totem pole.  Where unsecured claims are on dischargeable debts with no secured collateral, priority claims are non-dischargeable debts with no secured collateral. “Non-dischargeble” means that they are not subject to being wiped away or discharged.  These debts are unsecured debts but they are debts that Congress, for certain public policy reasons, determined should not be subject to discharge.  For example, child support debts, some tax debts, and criminal fines are generally not subject to discharge in a Chapter 7 case. Creditors to whom you owe these types of debts file priority claims when you file for bankruptcy relief. Because these debts are not discharged, you must keep paying them even if you file for Chapter 7, and they must be completely repaid with your chapter 13 repayment plan if you file for Chapter 13. Creditors with priority claims will be repaid before those holding unsecured claims, but after those with secured claims.

Unsecured Claims: These claims should be viewed at the bottom of the totem pole as they have a lower priority than secured claims and priority claims.  These claims are only applicable to debts with no secured collateral. Most frequently, these debts include medical bills, personal loans, and credit card debt and are almost always discharged with a Chapter 7 case. With Chapter 13 cases, your non-exempt assets and your disposable income determine the repayment plans for these debts. Creditors with unsecured claims are often paid last and paid least.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, and you would like to learn more about how Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you throughout the process, contact us today at (507) 387-7200.

Scams, Frauds, and Traps in the Path of Those Searching for Debt Relief in Worthington, MN

Credit repair, debt relief, debt consolidation, and debt erasure are all tempting ideas to those seeking reprise from their financial struggles. Unfortunately, most of the offers that you see advertisements for or receive by phone, email, and mail are fraudulent. The rise in credit card debt over the last 20 years in combination with several dips in the economy from 2001 onward has significantly increased scammers’ prospects of taking advantage of those in debt. If you are struggling financially, Behm Law Group Ltd. provides legal support for bankruptcy proceedings and information about debt relief in Worthington, MN.

Promises to repair credit debt or erase bad credit are frequent claims of scammers in the world of debt and bankruptcy. While these scams and frauds are dangerous situations to fall into, there are some situations where legal and legitimate debt relief is possible.

Recognizing Fraud 

Because the majority of companies or organizations promising credit repair and debt erasure are fraudulent, there are often clear signs of the traps these scammers want you to fall into. The most obvious signs of fraud include:

  1. Withholding information about your legal rights or failing to provide legalized, clear-cut terms
  2. Requiring an upfront fee or an initial payment before services are provided
  3. Pushing you to dispute your credit report in entirety
  4. Encouraging you to take on a new credit identity

What these scammers do is illegal, and taking part in any of their proceedings may leave you subject to indictment and force you into legal proceedings for debt fraud. Find out more details about credit repair fraud and companies offering illegal services here.

 Legal Debt Relief

Bankruptcy is almost always an option for those struggling with unmanageable credit card debt or debts accumulated from a variety of sources. Behm Law Group Ltd. can help you throughout the process of filing for bankruptcy, but even throughout bankruptcy proceedings, there are ways to begin improving your credit slowly but surely. Approved credit counselors can help you understand how your debt was accumulated and how to avoid such situations in the future.

If you’re worried about your financial situation and have been tempted by the calls about credit repair and debt erasure, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200 for information about bankruptcy and debt relief in Worthington, MN.

Avoiding Mistakes When Filing for Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN Behm Law Group offers Bankruptcy Advice

Filing for bankruptcy may seem daunting and complicated, but with the right assistance and advice during the filing and discharging process, bankruptcy may be the best thing that has happened to you financially in a long time. U.S. Bankruptcy Courts don’t exist to belittle you, shame you, or leave you out to dry during the filing process. However, there are some occasions that may make it seem that way if you forego the expert legal help our attorneys at Behm Law Group, Ltd. can provide when filing for bankruptcy in Mankato MN.

There are several common, yet crucial, mistakes that debtors can make when filing for bankruptcy. Without legal assistance, you could be subject to making mistakes concerning these aspects of your financial situation during the filing process:

Settling Debt: If you have begun the filing process, you should avoid paying your unsecured creditors (creditors that do not have collateral) such as credit cards, medical debts and other debts that you do not wish to retain. These debts will be discharged in the bankruptcy. Continuing to pay them will neither improve your credit standing following the bankruptcy nor incentivize creditors to lend you credit. Paying on these debts is like “throwing good money after bad”. It will do absolutely nothing for you. Of course, you should continue to pay on secured debts (creditors that do have collateral), such as mortgage lenders and vehicle lenders, that you want to retain.

Retirement Funds: Because your creditors legally cannot touch your retirement account, you should not cash in your funds until the process is complete. You should never use your retirement money to “settle” your debts. By doing so, you are essentially wasting a financial “nest egg” that you have worked hard to establish that you can fully protect in bankruptcy.

Family Loans: Avoid paying off family loans or helping family and friends financially during or directly before the filing process. Your creditors and the bankruptcy trustee administering your bankruptcy case may bring a lawsuit against your family and friends to recover the money you paid them.

Property: Hold all your current property in your name during the bankruptcy process. DO NOT transfer property out of your name. If you do transfer assets out of your name, you will most assuredly lose the property you transferred.

Lawsuits: Because pending lawsuits or lawsuits against you will continue until your bankruptcy is filed, you should not ignore these suits. Our attorneys can help advise you on lawsuits and determine whether or not you should respond before a bankruptcy is filed.

Purchases: Making large purchases on your credit cards or cash advances in other forms is a frequent mistake made during the filing process. Wait until the process is complete to ensure you won’t still be accountable for these charges.

The professional attorneys at Behm Law Group, Ltd. are here to keep you from making these common mistakes and other important missteps when it comes to filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN. For more information, contact us at (507) 387-7200.

 

How to Buy Back-to-School Supplies in Owatonna, MN, Without Having to Declare Bankruptcy

Parents and kids in Owatonna, MN are getting geared up for the new school year. One inevitable expense is outfitting and supplying kids with what they need to head back to the classroom. It is possible to spend wisely on supplies without going broke and facing the prospect of bankruptcy, according to the professionals at Behm Law Group, Ltd.

Here are several money-saving strategies to lessen the financial burden of getting your kids ready for school this year:

  • Determine what you really need to purchase. Check each child’s closet and make a list of only what each one truly needs to head back to school. Round up all of the office and school supplies you already own. Put them in a central location so you can make a list of what you have. Take your lists with you when you shop.
  • Stick to your lists. The teacher’s supply list at the start of the school year is daunting enough, so don’t waste money on unlisted items.
  • Set limits. Draw up a budget and make a commitment to stick to it. Set limitations with your kids, and speak with them about money-based values. Try to stay away from trendy, cheaply made merchandise.
  • Spread your spending over two or more pay periods, if possible, to help you stick to your budget.
  • Shop end-of-summer sales. Snap up discounted clothing that can be worn well into fall and next spring.
  • Host a back-to-school swap. Round up a couple of moms with kids the same gender as yours, but different ages, and host an annual clothes swap. Trade books and tools, too.
  • Hit up the Dollar Store or Dollar General for great deals on basic supplies. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll find and how much you’ll save.
  • Use coupons wisely. Scour your Sunday newspaper for coupons and search on-line coupon sites. To cut down on driving, remember that many stores offer price and coupon matching.
  • Pay with cash vs. credit cards. This allows you to keep a tight rein on your budget. Once your cash is gone, you’re done shopping.

If your back-to-school expenses and other bills seem unsurmountable and you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN, give Behm Law Group, Ltd. a call at (507) 387-7200 to discuss your options. We’re standing by to assist you with this very difficult decision.

 

Two Ways to Discharge Debt in the Marshall, Minnesota Area

In the Marshall, Minnesota area, students may find repaying their student loan debt challenging. For those former students struggling to overcome the weight of crippling expenses and education-related debt, Behm Law Group Ltd. can help!

Last week, we discussed how to examine whether or not substantial student loan debt could be discharged through bankruptcy. The first step is to take the Brunner Test, and after determining your personal financial situation regarding your ratio of debt to credit, it’s important to take a look at your options for discharging student loans through bankruptcy.

Here are two different options for discharging your personal student loan debt:

  • Privacy Issue: Did you utilize student loans to help pay for your private college education? If so, you may be able to discharge your student loans by redefining their purpose! Federal aid is often not available for students attending private or smaller schools, which makes private student loans a necessity rather than a choice. Since the choice to use federal student aid was not available, these private loans can be considered something other than an “education” loan and can be discharged legally through bankruptcy.
  • Attendance Record: Did you use federal student loans in order to pay for anything other than tuition or school fees? In the past, some folks struggling with student loans and bankruptcy have argued that non- “cost of attendance” expenses, or non-tuition related expenses such as computers, can be discharged from their student loan debt. However, borrowers beware! Oftentimes, loans require that students initially agree to consider additional expenses within the “cost of attendance” when getting their student loans.

Although student loan debt and bankruptcy can be equally frightening to folks in the Marshall, Minnesota area, there are options to consider. By examining the definition of these loans and considering the classification of “cost of attendance” loans, students can save themselves from years of challenging payments or debt.

For more information regarding student loan debt and related bankruptcy, contact the professionals at Behm Law Group Ltd.!