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.

 

 

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.

Bankruptcy Options for Student Loan Debt Relief in Owatonna, MN

Bankruptcy is an effective course of action for alleviating several types of debt, including credit card debt, mortgages, car loans, and medical bills. The system of bankruptcy is designed to provide debt relief if a filer is struggling with these common financial woes, but it’s not a system necessarily meant to relieve another very common debt: student loans. In fact, at Behm Law Group, Ltd., we often counsel against filing for bankruptcy based on the goal of ridding only student debt. There are situations, however, where you can prove your circumstances demand student loan debt relief in Owatonna, MN.

In the case where you find you may be able to prove your inability to repay student loans, it’s crucial to have the legal assistance of a bankruptcy attorney. In order to obtain debt relief in a bankruptcy case for your student loans, you must be able to prove that you would suffer “undue hardship” if you were forced to repay those loans.

Undue Hardship

Undue hardship describes a situation in which you may be pushed into poverty and have minimal resources available to you for food, rent, clothes, healthcare, and transportation if you’re forced to continue paying a certain debt. In the case of repaying student loans, it’s very difficult to prove to a court that you may experience undue hardship.

You may have no income other than government support and may be able to prove you won’t be able to have a normal working life due to a disability, and yet, a court may still deny your request for student loan discharge. Without the right support during the legal navigation of student loans in bankruptcy (i.e. the help of a bankruptcy attorney,) it’s a long shot that you’ll have an argument that a bankruptcy court will approve.

How bankruptcy courts determine undue hardship for purposes of qualifying for student loan debt relief depends on where you live in the United States.  Some courts will use the Totality of Circumstances Test.  With this standard/test, a bankruptcy court can consider all aspects of your financial situation in determining whether you will be able to repay your student loan debt.  However, some courts in other areas of the United States use other tests. For example, another widely utilized test is the Brunner Test, which tests your situation against measures of poverty, the persistence of your current financial conditions, and your good faith in student loan repayment efforts. Other courts may use a test for Health Education Assistance Loans (HEAL) to determine if your student loans are unreasonably damaging your quality of life.

While you may be able to get student loan debt relief in bankruptcy, undue hardship can be difficult to prove. If you have questions concerning student loan debt relief in Owatonna, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 for a consultation today.

Understanding GAL Fees When Filing for Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN

Just like the rest of the individuals in the U.S., those considering bankruptcy are often juggling many life situations. From divorce to custody battles, many of these situations involve legal procedures and can be difficult to reconcile in the face of filing for bankruptcy. If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers legal counsel to help you balance your life outside of the bankruptcy process.

One common situation many of our clients find themselves working through before or during their bankruptcy petition is divorce. If you’re working through a divorce or are recently divorced, there are a number of ways it may affect your bankruptcy case.

If a state court has appointed a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) during your divorce, you may have to pay for that obligation throughout your bankruptcy case. There are some circumstances, however, where GAL fees can be discharged which means that you would not have to continue paying them.

What is a GAL?

In cases of divorce when a legal dispute over the custody of children arises between spouses, the court will appoint a GAL to look out for the best interests of the children. The GAL investigates the parents and the relationships the children have with each of the parents. The GAL uses this investigation to recommend to the court which parent should have primary custody. The parents are responsible for paying the fees for the GAL.

Discharge of GAL Fees

In many cases, GAL fees are considered domestic support obligations, and, like alimony and child support, they sometimes cannot be discharged during Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. Nevertheless, like all other domestic support obligations in bankruptcy, there are some times where GAL fees can be fully or partially discharged.  If you and your ex-spouse are jointly liable, you may be able to discharge a portion or all of the fees owed if the right to collect the fees has been assigned or sold to a third-party collection agency or debt purchaser.

While your chances for GAL fee discharge may be limited, our bankruptcy attorneys will work with you to obtain the broadest debt relief possible.  For more information about the assistance we provide regarding the filing of bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 3087-7200 today.

Avoiding Dismissal With Prejudice With the Help of a Bankruptcy Attorney in Fairmont, MN

In the wonderful world of the freedom of the United States of America, it’s always optional to take advantage of the help that a trained and experienced lawyer can provide. Since the Gideon v. Wainwright case in 1963, the US courts will appoint a publicly funded attorney in criminal cases to defendants who can’t afford their own. That being said, any person in any type of US legal case can also choose to represent oneself in court.

However, just because one can, doesn’t necessarily mean that one should. Criminal cases aside, there are countless opportunities for those attempting to represent themselves to make a legal a misstep. At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we emphasize the importance of taking advantage of the legal support and counsel that an experienced bankruptcy attorney in Fairmont, MN, can offer throughout your bankruptcy case.

Aside from the difficulty of managing your own bankruptcy petition while working through the day-to-day demands of your personal and financial life, the actual requirements of filing for bankruptcy from start to finish can be nuanced, exacting and rigorous. The help of a bankruptcy attorney can truly change the outcome of your case, whether you intend to liquidate in a Chapter 7 or reorganize in a Chapter 13. One of the dangers you may face if you choose to file without a bankruptcy attorney is the possibility of your case being dismissed with prejudice by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

There are several reasons your bankruptcy case may be dismissed with prejudice, and many of them involve fraudulent behaviors—intentional or unintentional.  “Dismissed with prejudice” means that you would be prohibited from filing for bankruptcy relief again for a certain period of time.

  1. Lying and being wrong: One of the most common reasons bankruptcy cases are dismissed with prejudice is that the court finds the filer has lied (or been inaccurate) about some information involving one’s debts or one’s overall financial situation. If you intend to file without a lawyer, you risk case dismissal with prejudice from certain inaccuracies on your bankruptcy forms and schedules, but this is easily avoided with the help of a bankruptcy attorney.
  2. Disobedience: In circumstances where a filer has appeared to willfully disobey a court order, one’s bankruptcy case can be dismissed with prejudice. This can include obstruction or hindrance of your creditors’ rights, which is a situation you may accidentally create.

A bankruptcy case is never black and white. The gray area involved in a case is best navigated with the help of a bankruptcy attorney. The implications of a dismissal with prejudice can affect your legal and personal life in extremely negative ways.

Taking advantage of the professional counsel and legal advice a lawyer can provide is critical if you’re considering filing for bankruptcy. For more information about our expert bankruptcy attorneys in Fairmont, 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 Cases Are Dismissed When Filing for Bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN

In the early half of the 20th century, the bankruptcy system in the United States was much less rigorous than it is today, and could be abused with relative ease. This abuse led to hundreds of cases with less than deserving bankruptcy petitions, and the system was finally altered with successive overhauls and additions to bankruptcy law in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 2000s. Today, it can be difficult to file for bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN, without legal help such as the assistance Behm Law Group can provide.

Filing for bankruptcy without the advice and assistance of an experienced attorney can damage the validity of your petition, and for several reasons, it may even lead to your case being dismissed.

A common reason why many petitions are dismissed is because the filer did not complete a mandatory credit counseling course before filing. US law requires that all filers go through state-approved credit counseling, and failing to do so is ground zero for your case being dismissed.

All filers must also pay a filing fee in order to enter into the bankruptcy process. Without paying the court fees, your case will certainly be dismissed. For low-income filers, it is possible to apply to waive the court fees.

The Minnesota Means Test is applied to all bankruptcy cases, and failing this test will immediately render your petition null. The test is designed to measure your income against the median income of Minnesota households. If your income is higher than the median you will not be able to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but you may have options for a Chapter 13 petition.

Failing to submit all the required information will also get your bankruptcy case a quick boot out the door. The forms, documents, and schedules needed to submit a complete petition are extensive and tedious, but Behm attorneys can help you organize and gather all of the necessary information.

The silliest way to guarantee the dismissal of your bankruptcy case is by failing to attend your meeting of creditors. Mark down the date of this short, mandatory meeting, and don’t be late.

Behm attorneys help you throughout the bankruptcy process, including helping you determine whether you qualify for bankruptcy and how you can become a viable bankruptcy candidate.

For more information about filing for bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN, contact Behm Law Group at (507) 387-7200.

The Truth About Credit Counseling and Why Help From a Bankruptcy Attorney in Mankato, MN, is Still Important

Before you file for bankruptcy in Minnesota, you are required to undergo a credit counseling course through a course provided that has been approved by the Office of United States Trustee. This is a government mandate that is designed to help American citizens who have had financial struggles severe enough to force them to choose filing for bankruptcy. Despite the benefits that credit counseling can provide, it’s also important to contact a firm that can help you during the bankruptcy process. Behm Law Group can provide expert legal advice and assistance as bankruptcy attorneys in Mankato, MN.

 

In many cases, approved credit counselors provide advice that helps a person or business about to file for bankruptcy feel capable enough to get back on their feet after the bankruptcy process is complete. However, some credit counselors may actually work to your disadvantage.

 

Requirements to File

Whether you own a small business that has had trouble meeting loan, mortgage, and expense payments, or if you’re simply an individual struggling with the financial difficulties of everyday life, you must go through the same requirement of credit counseling to file for bankruptcy. If you don’t undergo credit counseling course, your bankruptcy case could be dismissed with no refund of the standard fee you must pay to file a bankruptcy petition.

 

What’s Wrong With Credit Counselors?

Though a credit counseling course is mandatory, there are several things you should be aware of before you enter the counseling process. In many cases, credit counselors might not be trying to help you as much as you think. In fact, there are a great number of credit counselors paid or managed by credit card companies. These are different than the credit counseling agencies approved by the Office of the United States Trustee through which you must take a credit counseling course. These counselors may charge hidden fees and increase your debts, damaging your credit further and providing you with illegitimate credit counseling. These tricks—even scams—that some credit counselors use can easily be avoided by making the right choice in counseling service.

 

So how can we help? As bankruptcy attorneys, it’s our job to be well-versed in the signs of a bad credit counselor and to know the bankruptcy process. We can help you find a counselor right for you and continue helping you throughout the entire process of filing for bankruptcy.

 

If you’re unsure whether you will need a bankruptcy attorney in Mankato, MN, just remember that we can help you far beyond the abilities of any credit counselor. Contact Behm Law Group at (507) 387-7200 for a consultation today.

Limit Spousal Input Before Starting a Business or Declaring Bankruptcy for Your Mankato, MN Area Business

When starting a new business, you need to carefully consider many decisions such as where to locate, what type of services to offer, how much equity each owner gets, and what pricing and business models to use. But did you ever think you should be concerned about your partner’s spouse? The bankruptcy attorneys at Behm Law Group, Ltd. believe such a consideration should be duly noted in the Mankato, MN area.

 

You might think this doesn’t matter because you are going into business with your partner, not their spouse. But consider these questions before you sign on the dotted line and commit your capital to the business venture.

  • What if the spouse has undue influence over your partner’s decision-making abilities?
  • Does the spouse have any experience in or knowledge about running a business?
  • What if the spouse is designated as a successor in the business should your partner suffer an untimely demise?
  • Is spouse difficult to work with when in a position of power?
  • Does the spouse share your and your partner’s vision for your business?

 

Of course, you want to trust that your business partner will be able to keep their professional and personal relationships separate for the good of your business. But you could find yourself in an uncomfortable situation if you don’t take some precautions in your business agreement:

 

1) Make sure all business owners in your venture sign a business agreement which addresses all aspects and possibilities for your business. Leave nothing to chance.

 

2) Define the spouse’s role in your business. How much influence, if any, a spouse would have? Can he or she make decisions? Can a spouse become an owner? If an owner, what are the terms for selling the spouse’s share?

 

3) Address the potential need for bankruptcy. At what point should the discussion of bankruptcy be brought up? Who makes the final decision to declare bankruptcy?

 

Whether you’re contemplating a business agreement or have already filed for bankruptcy, seek our counsel at Behm Law Group, Ltd. We specialize in bankruptcy in the Mankato, Minnesota area and can offer you sound advice for making the best decision regarding bankruptcy for your business before it’s too late.

Bankruptcy During Tax Season

While bankruptcies occur year round, timing is everything. Once you have determined you need to file for bankruptcy, consult with local attorneys, especially those whose practice focuses exclusively on bankruptcy. Factors such as assets, upcoming life changes (like marital status), and pending judgments you might have affect when you should file.

As you can see in the table below, people tend to file for bankruptcy predominantly around tax season. These statistics represent the 2014 bankruptcy filings according to the U. S. Courts:

Month in 2014 U.S. Total Filings Business Filings Non-Business Filings
January

70,491

2,233

68,258

February

74,508

2,228

72,208

March

70,491

2,233

68,258

April

90,670

2,563

88,107

May

87,966

2,467

85,499

June

76,223

2,253

73,970

July

79,239

2,218

77,021

August

77,190

2,098

75,092

September

75,312

2,039

73,273

October

81,179

2,295

78,884

November

64,250

1,830

62,420

December

65,161

2,094

63,067

Total

936,795

26,983

909,812

The highest number of total bankruptcy filings in the U. S. for 2014 was in April. In fact, according to Bob Lawless, bankruptcy filings consistently top out in the beginning part of the calendar year. Typically, January and February tend to accumulate at least 15% of the total filings, as is the case here.

Although the reasons could be numerous, let’s take a look at a few possibilities for why the beginning of the year and, in particular, the tax season may garner so much attention:

  • With taxes due April 15, people focus more on their finances and are apt to make significant changes then.
  • People think bankruptcy will lessen their tax burden.
  • Folks feel they can’t be audited if they file for bankruptcy.
  • Some think they can go on a spending spree before April 15, file for bankruptcy, and then owe nothing.
  • They expect a large tax refund and believe they can simply use that to pay toward a bankruptcy.

Wouldn’t it be nice if bankruptcy were that simple? It’s not. That’s why you should contact the bankruptcy attorneys at Behm Law Group, Ltd. Here’s why:

  1. In a bankruptcy, certain debt called priority debt cannot be discharged. Priority debt includes child support, DWI charges, some penalties, plus more.
  2. A bankruptcy does not stop an audit. The IRS gets priority here.
  3. If you go on a spending spree before declaring bankruptcy, that could be construed as intentional fraud.
  4. If you have filed for bankruptcy, you may or may not be able to spend your tax refund.

These are just a few examples where legalities can get tricky. You need to understand there are enough nuances within bankruptcy law that could really cause you problems if you don’t know what you are doing.

When to file tax returns regarding bankruptcy has its own issues. One thing that is certain is you cannot discharge taxes that haven’t been filed in the first place. For specific advice, contact the bankruptcy attorneys at Behm Law Group, Ltd. We serve mankato, MN and the surrounding areas, including Marshall, Worthington, Owatonna, New Ulm, St. Peter, Redwood Falls, Waseca, and Fairmont.

One good thing to keep in mind is that discharged debt doesn’t really affect taxes because it isn’t considered to be taxable income.

This April 15, if you are considering filing for bankruptcy, make sure you have the facts. It may not be in your best interest to file now. Any important financial change deserves careful thought. For further advice, contact your local bankruptcy attorney.