Expedite the Bankruptcy Process: Gather the Required Documents in Advance

The process of filing for bankruptcy can and should be a very smooth and relatively quick one. What generally slows and complicates the process is if the individual does not have the required paperwork in order. Prior to filing bankruptcy, there are a number of supporting documents that must be submitted. Until these documents are properly collected and reviewed, your bankruptcy lawyer cannot obtain a court date for you. Most individuals will find that the process becomes very long and tedious if they do not proactively obtain these documents. Although this is not an exhaustive list, the following is a general list of documents which you should start gathering in advance to smooth the way and speed up the process.

  1. The individual(s) must obtain a certificate of Approved Credit Counseling. The cost of doing so is nominal, and may be completed online through a number of agencies.
  2. Paystubs for the past 60 days and evidence of household income for the past 6 months.
  3. Last 4 years of original income tax returns, and evidence of how you used your last tax refund (particularly if you are filing shortly after you received it).
  4. Notification of any anticipated increases in income or expenses after filing.
  5. Financial statements for the past 6 months. This includes retirement accounts, stocks/bonds and bank accounts (checking, savings, loans for secured debt, such as automobiles and mortgages).
  6. A detailed list of personal property. This should be an exhaustive list of all personal property, including items such as electronics (TV, laptop, iPod), furniture, bedding and linens, kitchen appliances, lawn care equipment, workshop equipment, jewelry, antiques, collections – just to name a few.
  7. All unsecured debt, such as credit cards, rent, utility bills and medical bills.
  8. Court orders if you pay child support or alimony, and proof you are current with these payments.
  9. Copies of all deeds and mortgages.
  10. Titles for any automobiles, boats, trailers, or jet skis that you own, and proof of full coverage insurance if you have a loan (secured debt) on your car.
  11. A detailed list of any items you have pawned.

This list may seem overwhelming at first glance. However, an experienced and knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer can guide you through the process, help you obtain these documents and, in some cases, even obtain them for you. To ensure your bankruptcy filing process is as smooth as possible, contact Behm Law Group.

Bankruptcy Myths Debunked – Part 4

This is the fourth part in a series of bankruptcy myths debunked. We have already debunked the myths that everyone will know you declared bankruptcy, your credit will be ruined forever, and that you’ll lose everything you own. The final myth we will debunk is that declaring bankruptcy is an honest and accurate reflection of your moral character. Declaring bankruptcy is not a moral failing. In no way should filing bankruptcy be construed to identify you as an unscrupulous deadbeat trying to skip-out on your bills by using the law to “legally steal” from others. Declaring bankruptcy simply means you have encountered financial hardships beyond your control that have put you in a situation in which you need the help and protection as provided by law.

You did not get in this situation on purpose

A deadbeat is someone who borrows or accepts money with no intention of repaying their financial obligations. A deadbeat shamelessly takes advantage of the system and of the people around him or her and a deadbeat has no ill feelings for the damage he or she causes by doing this.

You didn’t do this. You had every intention of paying your bills and faithfully meeting your financial obligations, but something happened that was out of your control. Maybe you or a loved one got sick. Maybe you lost a job. There are a whole host of events that could have put you in need of declaring bankruptcy, none of which have anything to do with your integrity or moral character.

Bankruptcy is for people like you

One of the reasons the option of bankruptcy exists is to help people in your situation. Our society recognizes that people get into financial trouble for many reasons, most of which are not their fault. It provides them with a means to seek protection and start over to re-establish their finances.

Getting help

A Minnesota bankruptcy attorney can show you how bankruptcy can provide you the financial relief and protection you need. At Behm Law Group, LTD, we specialize in helping people in your situation. Our bankruptcy attorneys will treat you with dignity and respect.

Bankruptcy Myths Debunked – Part 3

This is the third part in a series of bankruptcy myths debunked. The first myth we debunked was that everyone will know when you declare bankruptcy. The second myth is that declaring bankruptcy will ruin your credit forever. The third myth we address is that when you declare bankruptcy you will lose everything you own. Perhaps you’ve seen something on TV or in the movies that perpetuates this myth, such as someone sitting on the floor of a nearly empty house while workers haul away everything they own. Fortunately, this is far from the truth.

Exempt property

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is sometimes called “liquidation bankruptcy.” This sounds scary because the term “liquidation bankruptcy” seems to convey that a creditor can sell or liquidate some of your possessions. However, bankruptcy law provides various bankruptcy exemptions, covering most types of property, which allow you to retain that property from seizure or liquidation. In the vast majority of bankruptcy cases, people do not lose anything other than their debts. Examples of exempt property include necessary clothing, motor vehicles, household furniture, jewelry to a certain value, tools of your trade, your pension, welfare income, social security, and unemployment compensation. Other exempt property includes appliances, equity in your home, and monetary damages you received for personal injury.

Protecting your rights and property

Protecting your property is an important reason you need an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. You need an advocate to protect your interests and your property. The Minnesota bankruptcy attorneys at Behm Law Group, LTD are on your side. Not only will we help you get the relief you need, we will help you protect and retain all the property and possessions you are entitled by law to keep.

Bankruptcy Myths Debunked – Part 2

This is the second part in a series of bankruptcy myths debunked. The first myth we debunked was that everyone will know when you declare bankruptcy. The second myth to be debunked is that declaring bankruptcy will ruin your credit forever. While a bankruptcy filing can be reflected on your credit history for anywhere from five to ten years, it affords you the ability to restart your financial life and rebuild your credit history. Even though a bankruptcy filing will be reflected on your credit history, you will likely be a more attractive credit risk to future creditors because those creditors will know that they will not have to compete with your pre-existing/pre-bankruptcy filing creditors to get paid. You need to know the facts in order to make an informed decision about filing bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy is a chance to rebuild your credit

Chances are, if you are considering bankruptcy, you’re credit is already in terrible shape and you see no chance to improve your situation. The deeper your debt becomes the harder it is to find a way to dig your way out of it. This begs the question: How can declaring bankruptcy ruin your credit when your credit is already in a state of ruin? With bankruptcy relief, you have the opportunity to rebuild your finances and get the second chance you need.

You can build credit after bankruptcy

Declaring bankruptcy does not mean your ability to recover a good standing regarding credit is lost or forfeited forever. There are still ways to responsibly rebuild your credit after bankruptcy. With the financial relief bankruptcy provides, you can restructure your finances, start saving your money and building your net worth. After you have saved some money you can get a secured credit card and start demonstrating your credit worthiness. With time and diligence you can rebuild your credit.

Bankruptcy is not forever

While it is true that a bankruptcy can be reflected on your credit history for five to ten years, you will probably be more attractive credit-wise to new creditors because you will be free of the vast majority of your old creditors. A bankruptcy filing will not prevent you from demonstrating that you can again be trusted with credit. At Behm Law Group LTD, our Minnesota bankruptcy attorneys know that a second chance can help people rebuild their finances and get their lives back. If you want your life back, give the bankruptcy lawyers at Behm Law Group LTD a call.

Bankruptcy Myths Debunked – Part 1

This is the first part in a series that debunks myths about bankruptcy. The first myth to be debunked is that everyone will know when you declare bankruptcy. Maybe you have fears of people watching you and whispering to one another when you go to work, your place of worship, or social events. Like some myths, this particular one has some aspects that are based on a degree of truth, but also “facts” that aren’t always true. Regardless of how you think you may be perceived by friends, co-workers or family, you need to make the decision to file for bankruptcy based on the facts of your particular situation and not from fears based on half truths.

Bankruptcy Proceedings are Matters of Public Record

Bankruptcy matters are made part of the public record and this fact can be a source of fear for some people. However, just because bankruptcy proceedings are part of the public record does not mean that everyone finds out about them. Unless one is a celebrity or unless one is prominent in one’s community, it is unlikely the media will report or even care about one’s bankruptcy filing. In Minnesota, bankruptcy proceedings are, with a few exceptions such as the Denny Hecker bankruptcy case, not published in newspapers. This is different from many foreclosure proceedings which must be published in newspapers to comply with the foreclosure notice requirements under Minnesota law.

Many People File for Bankruptcy

Because of the high cost of medical treatments, bad economy, job loss, and a host of other reasons, many more people than you probably realize file for bankruptcy relief. Chances are, you already know some people who have found themselves in desperate financial circumstances and have needed to declare bankruptcy. Perhaps people whom you know have actually told you about their bankruptcy proceedings. Perhaps people whom you know that actually have filed for bankruptcy relief have not told you about it.  Regardless, the reality is that while bankruptcy proceedings are matters of public record in most cases people never hear about whether any particular person actually has filed.  With the large number of people filing for bankruptcy, few publications have the space or resources to list the names of people who have filed.

Certain parties such as creditors one owes money to, bankruptcy court officials, and other necessary parties must be notified of a bankruptcy proceeding because the bankruptcy code requires it and because many of those same parties actually administer and participate in the bankruptcy proceeding. Generally speaking, however, unless one tells someone else about a bankruptcy or unless one must list someone as a creditor in a bankruptcy, no one else will find out about it. If someone really wanted to do so, one could access the bankruptcy court docket in any particular state and find out about any bankruptcy proceeding. However, accessing federal court records is not an easy process and can be expensive.

Know the Truth

Any competent and responsible Minnesota bankruptcy attorney should be well versed regarding the repercussions of bankruptcy. At Behm Law Group, we have assisted numerous clients through the bankruptcy process. For all of them, declaring bankruptcy served as a welcome financial and emotional relief. Filing bankruptcy has provided them with a fresh start. If you have questions about bankruptcy, don’t hesitate to contact us at Behm Law Group Ltd.

Additional Causes of Bankruptcy

This post is the third in a series about the most common causes of personal bankruptcy. In the first post medical expenses were identified as the cause for the most bankruptcies in the United States. The second post recognized job loss and unemployment as the second most common cause of bankruptcies. In this final segment we will discuss the third, fourth, and fifth most common causes of personal bankruptcy.

Out-of-Control Spending

This cause of bankruptcy is perhaps the most embarrassing. What’s worse, it advances the misconception that people who declare bankruptcy are irresponsible shopaholics. However, people in this group usually get into financial trouble through no fault of their own. Out-of-Control-Spending can be caused by any of the other four financial situations!

For example, a person is living on an extremely tight budget due to one or more of the other four situations. Suddenly their car breaks down but they need it to drive to job interviews or medical treatments. The only way to pay for the repair bill is to use a credit card. Then winter comes, and they don’t have enough income to pay the heating bill, so they use a credit card to cover that expense. As cash becomes tighter they turn to their credit cards to buy fuel and groceries. Before they realize it they’ve maxed out their credit cards and the amounts due plus interest are beyond their financial means.


Most couples rely on a two-person income. But when a divorce occurs, their income is cut in half. And on top of that, they have hefty legal fees from the divorce.


Hurricane Sandy demonstrated how powerful and destructive nature can be. Thousands of people suddenly faced having their homes and businesses destroyed, instantly making them homeless and unemployed. For many of these people it will take many months to receive the insurance benefits resulting from their claims. Even after receiving their money it will take longer to rebuild and reestablish their homes and businesses. Although many are receiving state and federal financial assistance, the severity of the damage and length of time it will take to return to “normal” will cost more than they can afford. For many of these folks a bankruptcy may be required to gain a fresh start.

Getting Legal Help

If you are in a position where you need a credit card to feed your children, you are facing desperate circumstances and you may need to call a Minnesota bankruptcy attorney. Call Stephen Behm at Behm Law Group, Ltd. Bankruptcy is not without its consequences. In particular, a bankruptcy filing will have a negative impact on your credit rating. However, bankruptcy can be the first step toward getting a fresh start and getting one back on one’s financial feet. Even though you may have a bankruptcy on your credit, you will likely be more credit worthy after a bankruptcy filing than you were before. The reason for this is that all or most of your debts will be discharged through the bankruptcy and new creditors with whom you consult later will see that they will not have to compete with old creditors to get paid. If you want a fresh start, contact Stephen Behm at Behm Law Group, Ltd.

Top Causes of Personal Bankruptcy

This post is the second in a series about the most common causes of personal bankruptcy. The first post discussed medical expenses which is the number one reason for filing bankruptcy in the United States. And just like the sudden onset of illness, the second most common cause of bankruptcy is something that is out of most people’s control: job loss.

Unemployment and the Jobless Recovery

In October 2010, the unemployment rate rose to 10%; in other words, 1 out of 10 Americans were unemployed. As of November, 2012, the unemployment rate was listed at 7.7%. If you go strictly by the numbers, the “upside” is a decline of 2.3% in unemployment. The “downside” however is the fact this number doesn’t account for those who are no longer applying for or receiving unemployment. These folks, the “chronically” unemployed, no longer receive any types of benefits at all. For them the situation has not improved much, if at all, and actually may be far worse.

In today’s economy, when someone is laid off, the chance of finding a job in a reasonable amount of time is slim. The average duration of unemployment is 40 weeks. During that time the unemployed person must continue to meet their financial obligations such as housing, utilities, auto insurance, medical insurance, life insurance, credit card bills, and somehow put food on the table. When a person faces tough financial times they must make tough choices, such as using their extremely limited funds to either pay a credit card bill or feed their children. Most would agree that buying groceries to feed the family is the responsible choice. When suffering through a financial crisis such as this you need all the help and compassion you deserve, but just how likely is it for a big credit card company to suspend your payments for 40 weeks?

Getting Legal Help

If you are overwhelmed with debt as a result of a job loss, call Stephen Behm a Minnesota bankruptcy lawyer at Behm Law Group LTD. You can count on a Stephen Behm to treat you with the respect you deserve. Nobody ever sets out on their financial journey through life thinking they will need to declare bankruptcy. However, if you find yourself in a financial crisis and can’t find a way to satisfy all your creditors, bankruptcy can give you the second chance that you deserve.

Top Causes of Bankruptcy

This post is the first in a series about the most common causes of personal bankruptcy. The stereotype of a person who declares bankruptcy is generally not flattering. Often they are depicted as someone who spends without thinking, uses credit cards recklessly, and has absolutely no financial discipline. The truth be told though is most people find themselves facing a bankruptcy through circumstances over which they have no control. The five most common causes of personal bankruptcy are medical expenses, job loss, out-of-control spending, divorce, and unexpected disasters.  Of all these reasons, medical expenses are the cause of most personal bankruptcies.

A Greater Percentage than Expected

According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, in 2007, medical bankruptcies accounted for 62.1% of all bankruptcies. This percentage of bankruptcies had increased 49.6% from 2001. Surprisingly, most of the people who declared bankruptcy due to medical expenses were not poor but well-educated homeowners with middle-class incomes. However, even with a middle-class income, these people had to declare bankruptcy because their illnesses caused significant income loss.

Three-quarters of people who declare medical bankruptcy have health insurance. Unfortunately, health insurance is usually insufficient when the medical bills start to pile up. For instance, if a person is covered by an 80/20 health insurance plan and their final medical bill is $100,000, they’re on the hook for $20,000. Most people are not able to absorb an unexpected $20,000 shortfall in their income, and if they lost wages during that period it gets even more disastrous.

Getting Legal Help

Illness can overwhelm you with stress. In addition, the financial strain that results from hospitalization can be unbearable. If you are in financial trouble from medical bills there is help available to you. Stephen Behm is a Minnesota bankruptcy attorney that will treat you with the respect you deserve and show you how a medical bankruptcy can provide you with the financial relief and protection you need.

Dealing with Financial Mistakes in a Tough Economy

When thrown into the depths of financial hardship you simplify your life as much as possible. You cut corners on all of your spending; you pinch your pennies as hard as possible and even cut coupons to stretch every cent. But still, the bills continue to arrive in your mailbox each day. The electricity, water, gas, garbage and phone bills come due. You’re upside down on your mortgage, the car needs repairs, the repairman just told you your furnace is in serious need of replacement. The stress is unimaginable and unending. What can you possibly do in this time of unrelenting strain and anxiety?

First try a few simple steps:

•    Organize yourself to be certain you have cut costs in every area of your life. For example, can you cut back on eating out to pay the garbage bill? Can you rent a movie instead of going to the theater? Would taking a mini-vacation instead of spending big bucks on a full blown retreat make better financial sense?

•    Consolidate your debt at a low interest rate. Once done, cut up or cancel the credit cards so they can no longer be used.

•    If you have established so-called “payment plans” with your creditors or their collection agents, try to determine if you are able to significantly reduce your debts or if you are just treading water and not reducing your debts. Keep in mind that creditors and their collection agents make a lot of money with interest rates and penalty fees. The longer you participate in a “payment plan” the longer they can charge those interest rates and penalty fees and the more money they make.

•    Try to focus on and pay off the debts with the lowest balances first. By eliminating at least some of the debtors, you will be able to simplify your debt portfolio. This will allow you to focus your attention and resources on debts with higher balances.

If you have truthfully done these things and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel, then bankruptcy may be your only option. Stephen Behm and the Behm Law Group specialize in bankruptcy law and can help you through the stressful financial worries overwhelming you and your family. They will work with you to determine which type of bankruptcy will best resolve your situation and they will guide you through the misinformation that is spread throughout the media.

No matter how you have accumulated the debt, keep in mind that it will get better and you can regain your peace of mind. Contact the Behm Law Group to take a healthy and productive step forward to relieve yourself of the stress and emotional and physical tension that debt can cause.

Can Taxes be Discharged in Bankruptcy?

If you have oppressive tax debt that is only metastasizing larger, like a cancer, because of interest and penalties assessed by the IRS, you may have abandoned all hope that you will ever be rid of them. Indeed, many people believe that tax debt is something that is next to eternal — something that will be with someone throughout one’s entire life. In bankruptcy, some tax debts are not subject to discharge but many are subject to discharge as long as certain criteria are met.

Under 11 U.S.C. §523 (Exceptions to Discharge), certain taxes are not discharged in bankruptcy if they are deemed “priority” tax debts under 11 U.S.C. §507 (Priorities). In other words, a particular tax debt must have certain characteristics that cause it to fall within one of the priority categories enumerated in §507.

Consider for instance debt stemming from property taxes. In order to be given priority status in bankruptcy under §507 and, therefore, not be subject to discharge in bankruptcy, a property tax debt must be incurred prior to the start of a bankruptcy case and last payable, without penalty, after one year before the filing date of  a bankruptcy. This means that if a property tax was incurred and last payable, without penalty, more than one year before the filing of a bankruptcy it can be discharged.  Consider that someone has a property tax debt for tax year 2009 and that the debt would have been payable, without penalty, by December 31, 2009. Consider also that the same person files for bankruptcy relief on January 1, 2011. Under these circumstances, the property tax debt would be subject to discharge in bankruptcy because it was incurred in 2009 and last payable, without penalty, by December 31, 2009, more than one year before the filing of the bankruptcy on January 1, 2011.

Consider also tax debt that arises from someone not withholding sufficient funds out of one’s paycheck to satisfy the appropriate tax liabilities for one’s particular level of income. Such tax debt is typically referred to as “1040 tax debt.”  Even this kind of tax debt can be and is discharged in bankruptcy as long as certain criteria are satisfied.  Under 11 U.S.C. §§507 and 523, 1040 tax debt will be priority debt as long as the tax is for a tax year ending on or before the filing of a petition AND:

a. Stems from a tax return or an equivalent report or notice that is due less than 3 years before the filing of a bankruptcy case;
b. Is assessed within 240 days of the filing of a bankruptcy petition;
c. The tax return or an equivalent report or notice for the tax debt is filed less than 2 years before the filing of a bankruptcy case.

So, let’s say that someone owes 1040 taxes on a return for tax year 2000 and let’s further assume that the person files for bankruptcy on January 1, 2011.  The tax returns for 2000 would be due by April 15, 2001. Let’s assume still further that the person duly files the tax returns by April 15, 2001.  In this circumstance, the 1040 tax debt would be discharged in bankruptcy because it stems from a tax return that was due on April 15, 2001 which is more than three years before January 1, 2011. Upon the filing of the tax return on April 15, 2001, the tax debt owed for tax year 2000 would be deemed “assessed” as of that date. The date of the assessment – April 15, 2001 – would be more than 240 days prior to January 1, 2011. Since the person filed tax returns on April 15, 2001, the third part of the above rule would also be satisfied because April 15, 2001 is more than 2 years before January 1, 2011, the filing date of the hypothetical bankruptcy petition.

Be advised, however, that the discharge of tax debt in bankruptcy is a highly nuanced and complicated area. There can be ways to discharge tax debt but an experienced, highly qualified and specialized attorney is required to get it done right. Contacting and scheduling a free appointment with a knowledgeable and reputable bankruptcy attorney who can offer expert advice and customize a path towards true financial freedom is only the first step.