Filing for Bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN While Unemployed

U.S. citizens from all walks of life can come into dire straits when it comes to finances. If the many recessions and stock market crashes over the last 100 years have taught us anything, it’s that finances can be unstable, even for those with high incomes. Those with seemingly secure jobs can find themselves unemployed when inner-company practices or the economy go wrong. Even now, there are many currently unemployed U.S. citizens who are faced with the debts of their past and present. The good news is there’s always an option for debt relief through bankruptcy. Behm Law Group, Ltd. provides the assistance you need to successfully navigate bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN.

Whether you’re employed part-time, full-time, or are unemployed, bankruptcy is a viable option to resolve debts. A common concern for those considering bankruptcy is how unemployment will affect the process. Despite the fees involved with filing for bankruptcy, unemployment may actually be a benefit in some cases. On the other hand, certain cases may be negatively impacted by unemployment. Whether unemployment will have a positive or negative effect on your bankruptcy case depends on which chapter you choose to file.

Positive Effects

If you choose to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it may help you qualify for Chapter 7 relief if you’re unemployed. To be eligible for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, all filers must complete and pass the Means Test. This test examines the income-to-debt ratio of all filers to determine if a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is right or if another bankruptcy chapter will be more appropriate. If your income is lower than the state median income for a household of your size, you can file for Chapter 7 relief to discharge your debts. If you’re unemployed, you can very easily qualify to file a Chapter 7 case.

On the other hand, there may be certain instances when unemployment negatively affects a bankruptcy case.

Negative Effects

If you don’t want to possibly have some of your assets liquidated and possibly lose some property in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can choose to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This process restructures your debts into a repayment plan that’s applicable to your situation, allowing you to repay some of your debts in a three to five-year period. However, unemployment can severely affect your ability to repay debts in a Chapter 13 case. If you’re only income is from unemployment, you may not be able to pay your reasonable and necessary living expenses and make your Chapter 13 plan payments. In order to make a chapter 13 bankruptcy work, your total monthly income must be higher than your total monthly living expenses.

Unemployment will affect your situation when you file for bankruptcy. However, depending on whether you choose Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it can have very different results.

If you choose to file for bankruptcy and are currently unemployed or have a low income, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you find the right options for your case. Contact us at (507) 387-7200 today for more information about filing for bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN.

Understanding the Predischarge Debtor Education Requirement for Bankruptcy in Luverne, MN

Whether you file for liquidation or debt reorganization bankruptcy, it’s likely that one or more of your debts will be discharged in the process. Discharging debts in Chapter 7 serves to simultaneously relieve debtors of unmanageable financial hardship and allow fair treatment of creditors despite a lack of full repayment. In a Chapter 13 case, certain debts can be discharged through a repayment plan. Foreseeing which debts will be discharged can be difficult, and organizing your case without the help of a professional may change that outcome. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers legal advice and assistance if you choose to file for bankruptcy in Luverne, MN.

In addition to the many requirements involved in bankruptcy cases, filers who will have debts discharged must undergo predischarge debtor education before the bankruptcy process can be completed and before the bankruptcy court can issue a discharge order.

Predischarge Education

The predischarge debtor education requirement was established with the purpose of advising those who’ve fallen into debt and filed for bankruptcy on how to better manage their finances. This course is different from the credit counseling requirement which debtors must undergo prior to filing a bankruptcy petition. Instead, debtors must go through a predischarge education course after their petition is filed but before they’re granted a discharge on any debts.

The financial management education course must be provided by a court-approved agency within a forty-five day period after the meeting of the creditors. The course lasts around two hours and covers materials that teach debtors how to improve their financial situation after bankruptcy. Topics include effective budgeting practices, handling taxes sensibly, and other court-required material.

You’ll certify your fulfillment of the predischarge debtor education requirement with bankruptcy Form 423, and if you file a joint bankruptcy petition, you and your spouse must both take the course. Additionally, the agencies that provide the necessary predischarge debtor education course don’t have to follow the same non-profit regulations as credit counseling providers. This means you may have to pay a fee to take the required course.

If you’re contemplating filing for bankruptcy, it’s important to consider fees for requirements like predischarge debtor education and other milestones in your case before you begin. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers assistance at every step whether you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Luverne, MN. Contact us at (507) 387-7200 today for more information.

 

Repayment Plan Periods and Their Role in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN

As an individual consumer, you have two options if you choose to file for bankruptcy. You can—if your income fits the requirements of the Means Test—file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and have many of your debts discharged in the process. However, if you do not pass the Means Test, your second option is to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In this case, your debts are restructured into a new payment plan that better suits your financial situation. Because the process of Chapter 7 liquidates most nonexempt property and because it can be difficult to pass the Means Test, many debtors opt to file for Chapter 13. If you plan to file for bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you navigate the complexities of a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 case.

Because the conditions of each filer are unique, each Chapter 13 case is different in its own way. These differences depend largely on the types of debts a filer owes. These debts determine how a repayment plan will be structured. Another aspect of the filer’s situation that determines the repayment plan is one’s income.

Income plays a key role in determining the length of time a repayment plan period will last. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, repayment plans can last three to five years.

Three-Year Plan

Simply put, if your monthly income when you file your bankruptcy petition is lower than the median income of a Minnesota household the same size as yours, your Chapter 13 repayment plan can last either three years or up to five years. While one would most likely choose the three-year time period because one would complete one’s plan, get one’s discharge and exit bankruptcy sooner, one could voluntarily choose a time period longer than three years, but not longer than five years, if one needs a longer time period to pay off tax debts or mortgage delinquency debt.  Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to keep people with low incomes from continuing the same financial struggles they faced before filing for bankruptcy.

Five-Year Plan

If a three-year plan is based on income lower than the state median, the opposite determines a five-year plan. When your current monthly income is higher than the median income of a similar Minnesota household, your Chapter 13 repayment plan must be five years. The five year commitment period is mandatory.  This plan period was designed by the drafters of the bankruptcy code as a compromise regarding the debts of a higher-earning filer and the fair treatment of creditors.  The rationale is that higher-earning debtors should have the ability to pay proportionately more to their creditors than lower-earning debtors.  Additionally, the rationale is that higher-earning debtors probably incurred higher levels of debt prior to a bankruptcy filing and, therefore, they should be compelled to pay more back to their creditors.

Current Monthly Income

Your current monthly income includes all income from your wages or salary and it also includes all other sources like pensions, annuities, and tax returns. Additionally, it’s based on the income of the most current month, which may vary from your average income over the past 12 months. This means that if your income changes significantly while you are in bankruptcy, your three-year plan could be extended if you experience an income increase or your five-year plan period could possibly be shortened if you experience an income decrease.

For more information about repayment plans and filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200.

 

 

 

Limitations of the Automatic Stay When You File for Bankruptcy in Windom, MN

Whether you file for Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy or Chapter 13 debt reorganization bankruptcy, you benefit from the immediate action of the automatic stay as soon as your bankruptcy petition is filed. The automatic stay is a wonderful tool designed to prevent creditors from collecting on debts that may be discharged or restructured during the bankruptcy process. It also prevents collections and blocks harassment from your creditors during the period of your bankruptcy case. If you’re struggling financially, the short-term effects of the automatic stay and the long-term effects of bankruptcy as a whole might be a viable option for recovery. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers legal advice and assistance when you file for bankruptcy in Windom, MN.

The automatic stay provides a wide range of advantages (link to blog post “The Power of Automatic Stay When You File Bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN”) along with its ability to prevent your creditors from collecting debt payments during the stay period. In addition to the many ways the automatic stay can help you, however, there are some things it cannot do, including:

1. Halting certain lawsuits.

Lawsuits that affect minors (i.e. children of the parties involved) are protected against most financial proceedings, including bankruptcy. For example, the automatic stay cannot stop a lawsuit that involves paternity or child custody tests, nor can it stop a lawsuit that attempts to modify, collect, or confirm child support payments.

2. Halting certain tax requirements.

The automatic stay can’t alter or prevent IRS tax audits or issues regarding tax deficiency. Additionally, the automatic stay cannot prevent the IRS from demanding your tax returns and demanding payment for taxes owed.

3. Halting wage garnishment for pension loan repayment.

If you took out a loan from your retirement pension, the automatic stay doesn’t stop the garnishment of your income (including wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, and any other sources of income) for the repayment of that loan. This is the only condition where the automatic stay is not effective in preventing wage garnishment.

4. Halting criminal sentence proceedings.

If you’re in the process of undergoing criminal proceedings involving debt, or otherwise, the automatic stay is only able to impact the conditions of your sentence that involve debt repayment. The automatic stay does not change the parts of your sentence that involve community service, therapy, jail time, or other requirements.

Despite the many advantages of the automatic stay, these situations remain unchanged during the stay period when you file for bankruptcy. Additionally, if you’ve filed for bankruptcy the previous year, the automatic stay period will end after 30 days, unless you can prove the need for an extension.

If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in Windom, MN, and want to learn more about how the automatic stay can apply to your situation, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd., at (507) 387-7200 today for more information.

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.

Debt Punishment of the Past Compared to Today’s Bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN

For as long as the concept of trade has been around, so has the concept of debt. Today, debtors have a wide range of options to recover from financial difficulties. Filing for bankruptcy is one of the most viable options for debt recovery we have as US citizens. Bankruptcy is designed to handle a filer’s debts in a process that provides fair treatment of creditors’ claims and results in a manageable situation for the filer. At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we have seen the system of bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN, prove its worth time and time again with each successful financial recovery our clients make.

We provide legal support with Chapter 7, 12, and 13 bankruptcies for community members and businesses in Mankato, MN, and the surrounding Southern Minnesota area, and we stand by the value of a successful bankruptcy case in helping our clients recover.

While the system of bankruptcy is a great option today, the debtors of the past didn’t have things so easy. In fact, there has been a wide range of harsh punishments for debtors throughout history.

A few of the most notorious punishments for debtors in history include:

  • Debt Slavery Laws: Up until 326 BCE, “debt slavery” in Rome and Greece was a common practice. Because there was no option for bankruptcy, debtors would instead pledge their labor as a security interest on loans. Creditors could take advantage of this security pledge and keep debtors in a slave-like internment until they could repay their debts. Slave bondage could even be passed from parent to child.
  • Death Penalty: Under the reign of Genghis Khan, debtors were given even fewer choices if they could not repay their loans. While they had the option to declare a form of relief akin to bankruptcy, after the third declaration, they were sentenced to death.
  • Medieval Penalties: Colloquially known as the Dark Ages, the medieval times have a reputation for hard conditions and harsh punishments. Debt punishments were no exception and included anything from flogging and branding to execution.
  • Imprisonment: Today, debts are not often associated with prison. Even fraudulent behavior in a bankruptcy case will most likely result in no harsher penalty than the dismissal of that case or the denial of debt relief. In Victorian England, however, failure to pay debts was punished with prison sentences or with exile to the British Empire’s “prison island” of Australia.

Debtors in today’s legal system can rest easy and know that they have many options to settle financial woes through the system of bankruptcy. Whether you qualify for Chapter 7 liquidation or Chapters 12 and 13 reorganization, the process of bankruptcy can turn the tides of unmanageable debt.

Contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 for expert support and legal counsel from beginning to end when you choose to file for bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN.

Filing for Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, with an Income of $100,000

Bankruptcy in the U.S. is designed to help those struggling to meet their financial obligations and debt payments each month. Because bankruptcy is generally linked with extreme financial circumstances, it’s a process that’s often associated with low incomes and financial destitution. There are many cases, however, when an individual has a high income yet still qualifies for bankruptcy. Even if you have a steady, high income, bankruptcy might still be the right option for you. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers legal advice and counsel to those considering filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

Many reasons exist why an individual consumer in the American economy might have accumulated debts they are unable to handle. Credit cards, mortgages, car loans, and medical bills are the most common causes of debt that can lead to a bankrupt household, even with a high income supporting that household.

The median income in 2017 was approximately $60,000 a year, but with the financial pressure of debts, bills, and everyday expenses, many households that earn median or higher incomes struggle to make ends meet.

A recent NPR story interviewed several households across the country. Each household in this story had an income higher than the national median, yet each still faced financial difficulties. The balances of the household debts and incomes were close, and many had higher debt-to-income ratios than families who get by just fine on incomes lower than the national median.

Because of this debt-to-income ratio, each of these households could benefit from filing for bankruptcy and receiving debt relief in the form of liquidation (Chapter 7) or debt reorganization (Chapter 13).

Chapter 7 With a High Income

It’s possible for households with an income higher than the state median to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Most households that qualify will often have incomes lower than the median, which allows them to automatically pass the Means Test. However, you can still sometimes pass this test if your total monthly household income is less than your total monthly household living expenses.

Chapter 13 With a High Income

If you don’t pass the Means Test, you may still file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy your debts will be restructured, and you’ll only be required to repay a fraction of your overall total debt.

Even if you have a high income, you may still benefit from filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200 for more information about filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

Filing for Bankruptcy in New Ulm, MN, as a Military Personnel or Veteran

All government employees, including military personnel, have the same rights to file for bankruptcy as any other citizen of the U.S. In some cases, members of the military and veterans even have additional benefits and options during the process of filing for bankruptcy than other citizens. Despite government pensions, salaries, benefits, and other financial support systems that military personnel and veterans have access to, sometimes it isn’t enough. Financial problems and debt can accumulate over time or happen suddenly when unforeseen expenses arise. With the help of Behm Law Group, Ltd., filing for bankruptcy in New Ulm, MN, is an effective method of recovery from financial struggles as a military veteran.

While members of the military and veterans follow the same rules and processes of bankruptcy as other citizens for the majority of cases, there are certain circumstances where they have additional benefits.

  1. Active-Duty Military: If you’re on active duty and file for bankruptcy, you’re protected under the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This act provides legal protection and may allow the courts to postpone or stay bankruptcy proceedings while you are in service overseas. The effect of automatic stay is also still active in addition to the benefits of the SCRA.
  1. Disabled Veterans: If you’re a disabled veteran, you’re not required to pass the Means Test to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. As a disabled veteran with debts primarily incurred while you were on active duty or in homeland defense, you’re exempt from taking the Means Test. Government-rated disabilities at 30% or higher, or discharge from duty because of disability will allow you to forgo the Means Test when filing for Chapter 7.
  1. Call to Active Duty: There are other cases that exempt military personnel from taking the Means Test when filing for Chapter 7. If you’re on reserve duty or a member of the National Guard and you’re called to active duty, or were in homeland defense 90 days after the 9/11 attack, you can forgo the Means Test during and 540 days after active duty.

As a U.S. citizen—civilian, military personnel, or veteran—the support system of financial recovery through bankruptcy is designed to be an option for all that qualify. If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in New Ulm, MN, military personnel or not, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help. Contact us at (507) 387-7200 today for more information.

Cross-Collateralization and Bankruptcy in Jackson, MN

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, your debts will be categorized as those securing purchased properties (secured debts) and those that do not involve tangible property (unsecured debts). Your creditors will also be categorized similarly, depending on which type of debt you owe to each. In the case of debt owed to a bank or credit union, categorization varies based on “collateral.” Behm Law Group, Ltd. works to determine how collateral may affect you when you file for bankruptcy in Jackson, MN.

Collateral

When you take out a loan through your bank or credit union, you give a security interest to that creditor. In the case that you fail to make payments on your loan, your bank or credit union can seize the property in which it has a security interest and sell it to satisfy the debt owed. In such a situation, such property is called “collateral”.

Collateral and Credit Unions

Banks and credit unions have two marked differences. First, credit unions do not operate for profit as banks do, and second, credit unions offer borrowing services that may include cross-collateralization clauses. Essentially, a cross-collateralization clause states that the security interest and a particular item of collateral may be connected to all your debts through your credit union.

This means that you may be able to take out a loan on a car from your credit union and you may also have credit card debt through your credit union card provider. A cross-collateralization clause may be attached to one of those debts tying the two together. Even if you pay back the full debt on your car loan, that car may still be sold as collateral if you stop making payments on your credit union credit card.

Debt Categorization and Cross-Collateralization

Cross-collateralization through a credit union can change the way your debts are categorized, which will, in turn, change the way those debts are handled in a bankruptcy case. For example, if you take out a loan through your bank to purchase a car, that debt is a secured debt because it is tied to and secured by the car. If you have credit card debt through that same bank, it is considered an unsecured debt because it is not secured by or connected to the car. In a Chapter 7 case, unsecured debts like credit card debts are discharged completely, and in a Chapter 13 case, you will only have to repay portions of those debts. However, if your car loan and credit card debt are taken out through a credit union and the credit union has a cross-collateralization clause, they both are considered secured debts. This means you will be required to repay both debts if you want to keep your car in a Chapter 7 case and to repay both debts in a Chapter 13 case.

If you are considering filing for bankruptcy in Jackson, MN, and have multiple loans through a credit union, you may have a situation where a cross-collateralization clause is involved. Contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today for expert advice and legal assistance in your bankruptcy case.

Treatment of Your Annuity When You File for Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN

When you file for bankruptcy, every aspect of your financial situation and all of your income and all of your debts are subject to review. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers legal assistance and counsel in navigating the bankruptcy code for our community’s individuals and small businesses filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

Changes to the bankruptcy law in 2005 with the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (“BAPCPA”) made a big difference in how a bankruptcy filer’s monthly income sources, monthly living expenses, debts and assets are analyzed in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, the current law requires that all of these aspects be accurately determined before a case is filed. When it comes to annuities, pensions, and retirement plans, the 2005 BAPCPA changes may help one determine one’s long-term options for one’s financial future after bankruptcy.

Understanding Annuities

Even if you own an annuity, it may not be fully clear how that account works or what type of annuity it is or what taxation rules apply to it. Annuities are investment accounts that regularly pay specified amounts to the owner from the total lump sum of money originally deposited in the account. The installments from an annuity are commonly scheduled to be paid out on a monthly basis, but they can also be paid out on a weekly or yearly basis.

Annuities are designed to help manage large amounts of money, safely containing the sum and providing a fixed income stream to the beneficiary of the annuity account. Common annuity accounts contain retirement funds, proceeds from insurance claims, proceeds from lawsuit settlements, and lottery winnings. The payments of an annuity can be made immediately upon the setup of the account or they can be deferred to start after a set period of time.

Annuity Exemptions in Bankruptcy

If you file for bankruptcy and you own an annuity, the annuity may or may not be protected by the bankruptcy exemptions.  Depending on the type of annuity involved and depending on the rules of taxation that apply to it, the following could apply:

  1. First, your annuity may qualify for exemption from the case. Because an annuity is a source of income, it becomes an asset in a Chapter 7 case. If your annuity is exempt, you may keep that account and protect the value from liquidation to repay creditors. If you file for Chapter 13 and can exempt your annuity, the value of that account may not factor in calculating the amount you will pay back to unsecured creditors in your repayment plan.
  2. Second, your annuity may not qualify for exemption from the case. This means the value of the account will be used to repay creditors in a Chapter 7 case, and in a Chapter 13 case, the account value will play a part in determining how much you will have to pay back to your unsecured creditors in your repayment plan.

Federal exemption laws allow the immediate exemption of tax qualified retirement plans and offer a Wildcard Exemption of potentially up to $13,200.

Whether your annuity qualifies for exemption when you file for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, depends on a number of factors. To learn more about how your annuity will be handled in bankruptcy, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.