Using Bankruptcy for Debt Relief as a Senior Citizen

If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, you’re not alone. People of all ages and financial circumstances file bankruptcy cases of varying types with results that provide long-term debt relief.

At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we’ve worked with clients in many different situations, from young couples to divorcees and even senior citizens. There are many reasons why filing for bankruptcy as a senior citizen is a positive step forward. If you’re unsure about using bankruptcy for debt relief in Waseca, MN and the greater Mankato area, Behm attorneys can help you determine what type, why, and how you can file.

There are two types of bankruptcy available to the majority of individual consumers: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Chapter 7 works to liquidate (sell) your non-exempt assets (properties) in exchange for debt discharge (debt relief). Chapter 13, on the other hand, works to reorganize your debts into a manageable repayment plan lasting three to five years. This repayment plan is tailored to your income and other financial circumstances, including your obligations to repay debts not included in bankruptcy.

For many senior citizens, Chapter 7 is a more effective, beneficial type of bankruptcy. This is largely due to the income and types of debts senior citizens are likely to have.

Income: Because most seniors are living with income from retirement accounts, pensions, and government support, the average income of U.S. senior citizens is much lower than that of younger, still employed filers. To be eligible for Chapter 7, filers must pass the Means Test. In other words, their income has to be lower than the state median of a similar household. Not only are most seniors eligible for Chapter 7, they also don’t have the income to support a long-term repayment plan through Chapter 13.

Debt: Chapter 7 discharges unsecured debts and debts that are tied to properties in full. Many senior citizens have medical debts due to the minimal coverage of Medicare programs or a lack of work-provided health insurance. Credit card debt is another common debt that senior citizens hold, along with most Americans of all ages. Both credit card and medical debt are discharged completely in Chapter 7. Additionally, most seniors have paid off debts on their properties in years prior, which means they won’t have to worry about their non-exempt properties being liquidated in the Chapter 7 process.

While some seniors can effectively file a Chapter 13 case, most will find more relief through Chapter 7. If you’re considering filing for any type of bankruptcy, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or via email at stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com for more information about debt relief in Waseca, MN.

How Filing for Bankruptcy Will Affect Embezzlement Judgments

Bankruptcy is a highly effective debt relief option available to individual consumers and businesses alike. It’s a system that is designed to protect the economy on varying scales from the oversaturation of debtors unable to continue making regular payments. It’s also designed to protect debtors from destitution while maintaining fair treatment for any creditors involved. If you are considering choosing bankruptcy as a long-term debt relief option, it’s important to understand how difficult it could be to file without professional experience, knowledge, and guidance. With the help of Behm Law Group Ltd, you can work through the nuances and complexities of filing for bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN, and build a strong, successful case.

While bankruptcy is an efficient tool for debt relief, it doesn’t necessarily wipe out all debts. Unsecured debts like credit card debt or medical bills are almost always discharged, but other debts like some taxes or priority obligations like child support are largely exempt from discharge in bankruptcy. Like those debts, not all legal debts like lawsuit judgments, fines, or other debts are always discharged in a bankruptcy.

Embezzlement judgments, for example, may or may not be discharged in your bankruptcy. If you have committed embezzlement fraud and have gone through the legal processing of that crime, you will most likely have a criminal fine or restitution on your record. Criminal fines or restitution fall into the category of priority (non-dischargeable) debt and they will not be discharged in your bankruptcy. However, you may be able to have that debt discharged if it is only classified as a civil judgement.

Civil judgments are claims against you that fall into the category of debts owed for “fraud or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity, embezzlement, or larceny.” If your debt for embezzlement is a civil judgment rather than a criminal fine or restitution, the creditor you owe that debt to must request that the court declare it non-dischargeable. To do this, they must take action early on in your case, specifically, within 60 days of the date set for the 341 meeting of creditors.

To request this, a creditor will have to file an adversary proceeding (i.e., lawsuit) with the court. In this proceeding, the creditor must prove that your embezzlement actions were fraudulent, that you were not authorized by the company or by the law to take the money or property, and that the property taken was held in trust for another party (i.e., the company or person embezzled from). If a creditor files a successful adversary proceeding, your civil judgment debt will not be discharged in bankruptcy.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN, and want to learn more about how different debts will be affected, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or via email at stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com today.

Newlyweds Using Joint Bankruptcy to Find Debt Relief in Mankato, MN

When people find themselves in a relationship with the person they want to spend the rest of their life with and they decide to take the next step into marriage, not much will stop them from tying the knot. Even something such as financial circumstances, which can be considered relatively trivial in the grand scheme of life, will be unlikely to prevent a marriage if a couple is truly determined. This means that many couples enter a marriage with substantial debt, low incomes, or otherwise less-than-stable finances. If you and your spouse are finding it difficult to pay your debts, bankruptcy might be the next step to finding long-term financial improvement. With the help of Behm Law Group Ltd., you and your spouse can file a successful joint bankruptcy case and receive effective debt relief in Mankato, MN.

Individual consumer bankruptcy chapters, including Chapter 7 liquidation and Chapter 13 reorganization type bankruptcies, can also be filed jointly by a married couple. Joint filings allow the combination of both your and your spouse’s debts into one case, requiring only one each of the pre-bankruptcy requirements, including the meeting of creditors, Means Test, credit counseling, and more. In addition to the consolidation of two of each pre-bankruptcy requirements into one, the bankruptcy fees are the same for individuals as for joint-filing spouses. This cuts in half the amount you and your spouse would pay if you each filed for an individual case.

If you choose to file a joint bankruptcy, all your financial information will be combined into a report that essentially represents as a single filer. Your assets (properties) and liabilities (debts) will be combined, and both of your incomes will be taken into consideration. For most joint filers, we recommend considering Chapter 13 more seriously than attempting to file for Chapter 7 for two reasons: eligibility and exemptions.

With a higher income from your combined jobs, accounts, or any other sources, you may not qualify for Chapter 7 because you may not pass the Means Test. The Means Test assesses your income-to-debt ratio. To be eligible for Chapter 7, your income-to-debt ratio must be lower than the state median of a similar household. Additionally, you can only claim the same exemptions of an individual filer. This means you may not be able to protect some of your property from liquidation in Chapter 7 because your debts are higher, your assets are more valuable, but your exemptions are not adjusted accordingly.

Filing for joint Chapter 13, however, means you save money in bankruptcy fees and attorney costs, save time on pre-bankruptcy requirements, have an easier time meeting repayment plan requirements with both of your incomes, and can pay off your plan more quickly than you would as two individuals.

To learn more about joint bankruptcy and debt relief in Mankato, MN, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200 or via email at stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.

Redeeming Secured Property in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

If you’re facing a large amount of debt and unable to make payments each month on those debts without severely compromising your quality of life, you may want to consider filing for bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most commonly filed case for individual consumers. In fact, there were over 400,000 non-business Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases filed in 2017. If you are considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you put together a strong case that will provide long-term debt relief.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy works as a liquidation process. You will have to provide all your financial information including debts, income, and properties to the bankruptcy trustee assigned to oversee your case. The trustee will then liquidate (sell) any non-exempt assets (properties) you have if you cannot claim an exemption on them. You can claim exemption amounts on properties like your home or car and other assets to protect them from liquidation. Once your non-exempt assets have been liquidated, the debts tied to them are discharged along with your unsecured debts such as credit card and medical debt.

There is one other way your secured properties can be treated in Chapter 7 other than with liquidation or exemption. They can be redeemed.

Property redemption essentially means you are buying the property back from your creditor for the value it’s currently worth. This is a beneficial option for filers if they owe a debt on the property larger than its value. By redeeming the property, you may pay less than actually paying back the debt, and you will be able to keep the asset.

The value of the property is either agreed upon by you and your creditor, or, if you disagree, the court holds a valuation hearing. When the value is determined, you have to buy it back by paying one lump sum.

To redeem a property, there are several requirements that must be met. These include:

  • The property cannot be of value in the Chapter 7 case. This may mean you exempted it from liquidation or the trustee has determined that it has no value to your bankruptcy estate.
  • The property must be a tangible item.
  • The property cannot be real estate. It has to be a personal item such as a vehicle or computer – something other than your home or other real estate properties.
  • The property cannot be used for business purposes (i.e. if you use your car for onsite jobs).

Redemption is an effective way to reclaim property you owed a debt on that was much higher than its actual value. If you want to own your property debt-free, the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process and redemption is one way to do it.

To learn more about redemption and filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or via email at stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com today.

Overview of the Basic Differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

In the United States, there are two main types of bankruptcy available to individuals and businesses alike: Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. While both types provide government-administered debt relief, the two chapters work very differently. Both are valuable options for debtors, and the more suitable one depends on the financial and personal circumstances of any given filer. If you are considering bankruptcy but don’t know where to start, Behm Law Group Ltd. can help. We can work with you to determine which chapter is right for you, and we can guide and protect you throughout your case. Filing for bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN, isn’t the impossible process it might seem to be, and our expert attorneys can help you see that every step of the way.

The main differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 lie in how the debts are handled and how long the cases take.

Debt Handling

  • Chapter 7 is a liquidation process. This means your non-exempt assets/properties are liquidated/sold, and the amount realized from that sale is given to your creditors. This payment to your creditors allows any debts tied to those sold properties to be discharged. Your unsecured debts, such as credit card or medical debt, will also be discharged in the Chapter 7 process.
  • Chapter 13 is a reorganization process. This means that you will take your debts and reorganize them into a repayment plan customized to your income. The repayment plan requires one lump monthly payment until your plan is complete. You may be able to repay your secured debts in full under different terms, but your unsecured debts will be fully discharged after your chapter 13 plan has concluded.

Time

  • Chapter 7 takes between three to four months to complete. The time period varies depending on how quickly you complete the pre-bankruptcy credit counseling and other requirements, how long it takes your trustee to liquidate any non-exempt assets, and whether there are any judgment claims in your case that need to be expunged. 
  • Chapter 13 takes three to five years to complete. Your repayment plan will either be a three-year or a five-year period. If your income is lower than the state median of a similar household, it will be a three-year plan. If it’s higher, then your plan will be five years.

There are other differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 as both are nuanced processes that vary case by case. Another major difference, for example, is that you can only qualify for Chapter 7 if you pass the state Means Test. This test measures your income-to-debt ratio. You’ll only be eligible for Chapter 7 if that ratio is lower than the state median of a similar household.

To learn more about the differences between the two chapters or to begin filing for bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or via email at stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com today.

How Government Debts Are Handled in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most frequently filed individual consumer case type. This type of bankruptcy discharges your debts in exchange for the liquidation of your non-exempt assets. While the loss of some property in return for the dissolving of certain debts is a possibility, such is not the case for most filers because they can use bankruptcy exemption allotments to protect their assets.

To qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you must satisfy the Means Test, which measures your income-to-debt ratio. If your income-to-debt ratio is lower than the state median of a similar household, you are eligible to file for Chapter 7. If you are considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Jackson, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can provide support, guidance, and legal protection throughout your case.

In Chapter 7, the majority of your unsecured debts will be discharged. This commonly includes credit card debt and medical bills, but may also range into more unusual debts like personal loans and income taxes. There are also various forms of government debts that are unsecured but might be treated as priority debs in your case.

SSA Overpayments: If you were accidentally given overpayments on your social security checks, you may be required to repay that debt if the SSA notices. If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, however, this debt will be treated as an unsecured debt. The SSA may file an objection to the discharge of this type of debt on the grounds that you defrauded the SSA, but more likely, the debt will be discharged.

County/City Fees: Certain fees you owe to your local government may be discharged in part. This typically includes first-time fines, tickets, and other fees. For example, if you were required to pay a government-employed contractor to tear down an illegal structure on your property but could not make the payment, that debt would likely be discharged. If you paid a private contractor to tear it down but were fined for failing to tear it down in a timely manner, that contractor debt will likely be discharged, but the fine may or may not be discharged.

Fines: Strictly speaking, government fines are not discharged. The only exception to this rule is if the debt was gained in reimbursing the government for money that entity spent or lost separately from the fines you were charged. For example, you are billed for the removal of a tree on your property but the government over-estimated the cost of that removal. The over-fine will be discharged in a Chapter 7 case.

If you have government debts, they will most likely be discharged in Chapter 7, but there are a few exceptions. To learn more about how debts are treated in bankruptcy or to get started on filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Jackson, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com today.

Why Medical Bills May Be the Cause of Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in the United States

Health insurance is expensive in the United States, largely because it is a highly privatized industry being unduly regulated by the federal government, which results in the federal government mandating many types of coverage that many people don’t want and don’t need. Providers of health insurance do their best to create plans that protect their clients’ well-being, but that comes at a great cost for a variety of reasons. If you do not have access to health insurance because the monthly health insurance premiums and the mandatory deductibles are so high, a sudden high medical expense might create severe debt. If you are struggling with medical bills and other debts, Behm Law Group Ltd. can help you navigate the process of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Worthington, MN.

Much debate has occurred about the percentage of bankruptcy cases caused by medical debt. Finding evidence of whether bankruptcy cases due to medical bills are on the rise is difficult because there are often several factors that lead to a case.

To understand the causes of a Chapter 13 case, it’s important to know exactly how this type of bankruptcy case functions and how it can be applied to certain financial circumstances.

Chapter 13 is a reorganization bankruptcy process. When you file for Chapter 13, you will work with your attorney to create a proposal for your debts to be reorganized into a repayment plan lasting three to five years. If your income is lower than the state median for a similar household, you will have a three-year plan, and if it’s higher than the median income, you’ll have a five-year plan. In your repayment plan, you’ll typically repay secured debts in full (i.e., mortgage or car), your priority debts in full (i.e., most tax debts, criminal fines and any debts technically exempt from bankruptcy), and your unsecured debts in part (i.e., credit card debt and medical bills). The amount you’ll pay of your unsecured debts depends on the amount they would receive from the hypothetical liquidation of your non-exempt assets in the event you had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief instead.

Put simply, the conditions for a Chapter 13 case to be effective are a steady income on behalf of the filer, debts that will be partially or fully discharged in the case, and the willingness of the filer to make regular payments for the duration of their plan.

Because medical bills are often discharged in full in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case and because those bills are often so high that they still affect those with steady incomes, the rise in medical debts today may be creating an equal increase in Chapter 13 cases.  Some studies show that up to 65% of bankruptcies yearly may be a result of medical debt. While it is difficult to discern an exact, single cause of a bankruptcy case, many reports show that medical debt is among the driving causes.

/areas-worthington.phpIf you are struggling with medical and other debts, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 for more information about filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Worthington, MN.

Handling Social Security Overpayments Through Bankruptcy

If you’re retired or disabled, you’re most likely receiving social security payments from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), and it may also be likely that those checks are your main source of income.

If you’re struggling with debts and on a strict budget, you may need to find debt relief through filing for bankruptcy. If you do choose to file for bankruptcy, you can find guidance and protection with the help of Behm Law Group, Ltd. Our attorneys can help you build a strong case and file a successful bankruptcy in New Ulm, MN.

When you file for bankruptcy relief, all your financial information is pertinent to the trustee assigned to your case. This might even include overpayments made through the social security system.

 

SSA Overpayments

When the SSA issues checks, there are occasions when they make an overpayment to a retired or disabled individual. You may not even be aware of that overpayment, and you may never be unless the SSA requests a repayment of that overpayment or if you file for bankruptcy. In the event you file for bankruptcy, these overpayments are considered debts you owe back to the SSA. While this seems unfair, these debts can still be discharged in the bankruptcy process.

 

Overpayment Debt

If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your debts will be discharged in exchange for the liquidation of your non-exempt assets. Most government debts, like unpaid taxes or criminal fines are not subject to discharge. However, SSA overpayment debts can be discharged and most likely will be because they are treated as unsecured debts, just like your credit card and medical debt.

If you file for Chapter 13, an overpayment debt will only have to be repaid partially, depending on how large your chapter 13 plan payments are. The amount you’ll have to repay will be included in a three-to-five-year repayment plan along with the rest of your reorganized debts.

 

Discharge Objection

The SSA can object to the discharge of your overpayment debts if they can prove you are abusing the system or committing fraud. For example, if you’ve provided false information on your case documents or SSA applications, your discharge may be rejected.

If you’re unable to make a repayment to the SSA on the grounds of overpayment debt, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. today for more information about filing for bankruptcy in New Ulm, MN, at (507) 387-7200.

Filing for Bankruptcy Again: Waiting Periods and Other Important Details

If you’re working through a difficult financial time, you may have begun looking for debt relief options already. Certain debt relief options might be more useful to you than others, depending on your situation. However, keep in mind that any kind of relief is a difficult, complex process. Because of this, it can be extremely helpful to work through a debt relief process like bankruptcy because the debt relief you obtain is certain and permanent and legally enforceable against your creditors. When you choose to file for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, Behm Law Group Ltd. provides the support and guidance you need to build a strong, successful case with long-term beneficial results.

Many people won’t experience a bankruptcy, but for those who do, they will find that it affects their lives in many ways. If filers finish their case, but later find themselves in a similar financial situation, they have the option of filing for bankruptcy relief again.

Sometimes, people will encounter difficult and unavoidable financial troubles after having already filed for bankruptcy relief.  Repeat bankruptcy filings are allowed by the bankruptcy code. The requirements for debtors to file another bankruptcy case largely include waiting periods between the dates of filing of the respective bankruptcy cases.

Waiting Periods for Individuals

There are two types of bankruptcy that individual, wage-earner consumers typically file:

  • Chapter 7 (liquidation bankruptcy): For debts discharged in exchange for non-exempt asset liquidation during a Chapter 7 case, the waiting period until you can file for a second chapter 7 bankruptcy is eight (8) years. For example, if someone files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief on August 8, 2010 that person would have to wait until August 9, 2018 to be able to file another chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
  • Chapter 13 (reorganization/partial-payment bankruptcy): Any debts discharged or repaid in a three- or five-year Chapter 13 repayment plan have a waiting period of two (2) years. This theoretically means you could qualify for a second Chapter 13 case while you are still making payments in your first chapter 13 case.  Theoretically, you, could be in repeat chapter 13 bankruptcy for years.  Most chapter 13 bankruptcy cases last three (3) years.  For instance, if one files for chapter 13 bankruptcy relief on August 8, 2010, one would be done with that case roughly by August 8, 2013.  Immediately thereafter, one could qualify for and file a second chapter 13 bankruptcy case.
  • Chapter 7 (liquidation bankruptcy) After Having Filed a Chapter 13 (reorganization/partial-payment bankruptcy): If someone has filed for chapter 13 bankruptcy relief and has completed their chapter 13 plan and received a discharge, one can subsequently file a chapter 7 bankruptcy case if one needs to do so.  The time period between such filings is six (6) years.  So, if someone files for chapter 13 bankruptcy relief on August 8, 2010, one could file a chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding August 9, 2016. 
  • Chapter 13 (reorganization/partial-payment bankruptcy) After Having Filed a Chapter 7 (liquidation bankruptcy): If someone has filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy relief and has received a chapter 7 discharge, one can subsequently file a chapter 13 bankruptcy case.  The time period between such filings is four (4) years.  So, if someone files for chapter 7 bankruptcy relief on August 8, 2010, one could file a chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding August 9, 2014.

While no one actually wants to file for bankruptcy again, sometimes one can encounter life hardships and financial difficulties that are simply out of one’s control.  Many people have to file for bankruptcy relief a second or, even, third time.  Medical emergencies which may not be fully covered by insurance, the death of a spouse resulting in only one (1) household income source where two (2) household incomes are necessary to cover daily living expenses and natural disasters which may destroy homes where insurance coverage is insufficient are just a few examples of how people may have a need to file for bankruptcy relief a second or third time.  

To learn more about filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200.

Mortgage Options and Rebuilding after Bankruptcy in Luverne, MN

Owning a home is a big goal for individuals and families alike. In today’s world, however, buying a home is a difficult process that requires both good credit and a steady income. Unfortunately, those are conditions that many U.S. citizens don’t have in their lives. For many, the prospect of a mortgage isn’t even on the table. Those struggling with severe debts in addition to having a low income don’t have the option to buy a house unless they seek debt relief and take positive action to turn around their finances. Filing for bankruptcy is one option available to anyone qualifying, and with the help of Behm Law Group Ltd., you can file a successful case and begin rebuilding after bankruptcy in Luverne, MN.

 

Bankruptcy filing is generally offered to most individuals as a Chapter 7 liquidation or Chapter 13 reorganization process. This means your debts will either be discharged in exchange for asset liquidation of your non-exempt assets or reorganized into a repayment plan lasting three to five years and suited to your income. No matter which type of bankruptcy you file for, you’ll receive the benefits of debt relief and likely have long-term stability if you are wise with your finances.

 

While one effect of bankruptcy is debt relief, the other is a hit to your credit. The benefits of bankruptcy are not outweighed by the negative effects on your credit, but it is something you will have to deal with after you file. When it comes to buying a home, for example, you will face varying waiting periods before you can be approved for a mortgage.

 

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

After you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you will have to wait two years until you can be considered for Federal Housing Authority (FHA) loans. Any other private, conventional mortgage company requires a four-year wait period until it will consider you as a borrower. An FHA loan is offered through a system designed to help consumers struggling to get loans because of poor credit, bankruptcy filings, or other financial problems. FHA mortgages have lower down payments and lower credit score requirements.

 

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will have a two-year waiting period for FHA loans if you have made consistent payments on your chapter 13 plan. However, if you have made consistent payments on your chapter 13 plan for one full year, you may apply for an FHA mortgage consideration with the added recommendation and explanation of your case from your bankruptcy trustee.

 

For conventional loans, that waiting period is two years after the chapter 13 repayment plan is finished and the case is officially closed. If your case is dismissed for any reason, that waiting period is extended to four years.

 

Rebuilding after Bankruptcy

No matter which type of bankruptcy you file for, getting a mortgage afterward requires patience and intelligent planning/management of your finances. To learn more about filing for and rebuilding your credit after bankruptcy in Luverne, MN, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.