Debt Collector Laws and Handling a Violation With Your Bankruptcy Attorney in Pipestone, MN

When you reach the financial point where filing for bankruptcy becomes a very real option, your relationships with debt collectors often start to change. When your creditors and debt collectors handle your missed payments on file, they start getting more aggressive.  However, for debt collectors in particular, there are laws to prevent harassment, illegal contact, and a number of other unpleasant activities. These laws are designed to protect you, and with the help of Behm Law Group, Ltd. and our experienced bankruptcy attorneys in Pipestone, MN, you can also be protected during the process of filing for bankruptcy.

While your creditors are usually not subject to these laws, debt collectors from any agency are legally bound to collect under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.

Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA)

Debt collectors are any entities whose professional purpose is to collect debts on behalf of a creditor that a debtor owes to that creditor. They are third parties involved in collecting debt for a creditor. A creditor, on the other hand, is an entity collecting debts directly from those who owe it. The FDCPA prevents debt collectors from illegal action against the debtor.

Though the fair collections laws apply primarily to debt collectors, there are times when they also apply to creditors. This can happen when creditors are debt buyers, when they use fake names to collect, or when they use flat rate collection companies.

Illegal Collections Practices

The FDCPA makes the following illegal for debt collectors:

  1. Calling if you have revealed that you are represented by an attorney
  2. Calling you at a place you have stated is inconvenient
  3. Calling outside of the hours of 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM or calling at any other times you have stated as inconvenient
  4. Not identifying themselves when they call or attempting to mislead you about their identity
  5. Using predial or autodial tactics to contact you (this also applies to text messages)
  6. Revealing your debt situations to others
  7. Contacting your family, friends, or acquaintances about your debt
  8. Mailing you debt collections papers with no envelope (i.e. postcards)
  9. Leaving you voicemails talking about your debt
  10. Contacting you after you request for them to stop
  11. Not informing credit recording agencies when you dispute a debt
  12. Not informing you of your right to request a debt collector to verify the legitimacy of the debt in question
  13. Threatening or harassing you in any other way
  14. Threatening you with going to jail

If you are overwhelmed by debt, you may want to consider the actions of your debt collectors and creditors. In many cases, those struggling with financial difficulties should also consider their options with bankruptcy. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can provide the assistance you need throughout the process of filing for bankruptcy with our bankruptcy attorneys in Pipestone, MN. For more information, contact us at (507) 387-7200 today.

Spouse Debts, Incomes, and Assets Under Common Law and Filing for Joint Bankruptcy in Windom, MN Bankruptcy in Windom, MN

Bankruptcy is an option for any U.S. citizen or business struggling financially. Because the U.S. Bankruptcy Code is a device meant to help entities out of major debt and get back on their feet, it’s a process that’s adaptable to many situations. Expanding a household inevitably increases financial obligations, and many bankruptcy cases involve the assets, debts, and income between spouses. If you and your spouse are considering filing for bankruptcy in Windom, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you throughout the process with expert legal advice and assistance.

Filing for bankruptcy as a household can be the best way to handle your debts alongside your spouse’s debts. Because Minnesota is a Common Law state, how your debts, assets, and incomes are handled in a bankruptcy petition will depend on whether they are considered joint or separate under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Joint

Any debts that were accumulated from financial obligations that benefited the marriage or household are considered a joint debt—for example: food, shelter, and transportation. This means these debts will be included in any single household bankruptcy case. Any debts that are owed through a jointly-undertaken contract that both spouses have signed, or for which both spouses’ credit scores were considered, are also joint debts.

When it comes to joint incomes and assets, how they are considered in a bankruptcy case is similar to debts. Incomes are considered joint if they used to cover joint expenses. Assets and property are jointly owned if both spouses’ names are listed on the title certificates, deeds, and registration cards concerning those items. They are also considered as joint if they were purchased with joint income.

Separate

When filing a joint bankruptcy petition, the majority of the household debt is considered in the case. The debts that are not considered are debts separately incurred by the spouses. This includes business debts, any loans not jointly contracted, and other debts not incurred by spouses as one entity.

The income of each spouse can be considered as separate income. This applies to outside incomes like inheritances, investments, and gifts if they are given or devised to only one spouse and not both. If any properties or assets are purchased with a separate income or have the name of only one spouse on the legal documents, these are also considered separate.

If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in Windom, MN, or if you have questions about whether certain debts, incomes, and assets can be applied to a joint bankruptcy petition, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 for more information.

2017 Retail Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, and Its Effect on Small Businesses

As the Internet continually plays a larger and larger role in our lives, online shopping is slowly taking priority over shopping in physical stores. This is especially true when it comes to the many retail items readily available on Amazon.com. The result of this growth in Internet shopping is a significant surge in retail closures. However, there may be some benefits to small businesses facing the necessary potential of filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.0

Behm Law Group, Ltd. attorneys will work to help any business filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but in the coming months, financial situations may change for some.

In 2016, several retail giants announced their steps towards filing for bankruptcy, and many other companies planned to close a large number of their outlet locations, making 2017 the year where the effects of these closures will show their true colors.

 Who is filing for bankruptcy and/or closing?

Over 70 major US retailers announced plans to close high numbers of store locations and several of these companies filed for bankruptcy in the last few months. Among these retailers, Macy’s, Sears, Kmart, CVS, Kohl’s, and Walmart will close 30-100 store locations each, with more to be announced over the rest of the year. Mall-oriented stores like American Eagle, The Children’s Place, Aeropostale, and Finish Line are also working through plans to close locations over the next few years.

Of these retailers, several have declared bankruptcy in the past year, and others are entering into full-on bankruptcy in the next month.

Why are they closing?

While online shopping has added to the neglect of physical retail stores over the past 10 years, it’s not necessarily where the root of the problem lies. The fact is that the US retail market is oversaturated. The big retail companies had a long heyday before the Internet poked its head in the door, but in the early 2000s, the decline for large retail companies had already begun. The popularity of mall and retail shopping quickly decreased as the Internet offered more variety within the same categories of retail, wholesale, other cost-effective options, and specialty products. Because each store closure spirals even further shutdowns for each retailer, the process may cause a rapid plummet in the next few years.

How can this benefit small businesses?

Because so many large retailers are in the process of reducing their store footprint, there is more and more space opening up to smaller businesses. Not only do these openings include physical store space, but they also include more spaces on the market for the unique products small businesses specialize in that may be difficult to find online or in the remaining large retail outlets.

While small businesses can look forward to openings in the coming future, the changing market could affect companies of all sizes. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can offer legal advice and assistance for any small business or individual considering filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN. For more information, contact us at (507) 387-7200.

Understanding the Role of the Bankruptcy Trustee in Your Petition for Bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN

When you enter the process of filing for bankruptcy, you agree to follow the many stipulations of U.S. Bankruptcy Courts and U.S. Bankruptcy Code. These regulations play important roles in protecting you as a filer, protecting your creditors, and protecting others involved in your bankruptcy case. One such requirement involved in Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases is the appointment of a trustee to oversee the administration of the petition. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers guidance throughout your own process of filing for bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN, and will work with your trustee to ensure optimal results.

Entering into a bankruptcy case means that you are automatically given a trustee to handle your petition. What a bankruptcy trustee actually does and who they actually are, however, may not be clear to filers.

Who are they?

In a nutshell, your bankruptcy trustee is a qualified individual the court will appoint to your bankruptcy case. Essentially, the trustee is a chaperone for your case. Your trustee is there to work through your case as a liaison between you and your attorney, your creditors, and the bankruptcy court. Bankruptcy trustees handle forms involved in virtually all kinds of cases, so they are well equipped to oversee your petition to the end.

What do they do?

The responsibility of a bankruptcy trustee is to administer your case. This includes the following:

  1. Examining your paperwork and all other information involved in your case
  2. Overseeing your confirmation hearing in a Chapter 13 case
  3. Overseeing your reaffirmation hearing in a Chapter 7 case
  4. Overseeing the meeting of the creditors
  5. Overseeing any other hearing involved (e.g. a hearing for a creditor’s motion for relief on an automatic stay)
  6. Identifying and selling all your nonexempt assets involved in a Chapter 7 case
  7. Evaluating your repayment plan in a Chapter 13 case to verify its fair treatment of you and your creditors
  8. Overseeing adversary proceedings if a lawsuit occurs during your bankruptcy process
  9. Overseeing the motion to dismiss your Chapter 13 case if you do not make repayment plan payments
  10. Ensuring legal accuracy throughout the process

Without bankruptcy trustees, the process of filing a petition and completing a case would be filled with confusion, unfair treatment of players involved, and probably a bit of foul play.

Our attorneys can also help you throughout the process of filing for bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN, with legal advice and assistance. For more information, contact us at (507) 387-7200.

How Lawsuit Money is Handled When You File for Bankruptcy in Marshall, MN

When you file for bankruptcy, your finances are very closely scrutinized. No matter what type of bankruptcy you file for, all your sources of income and debts must be considered in the process. When it comes to your income, this can mean anything from your normal job to money from a garage sale. Income you’ve gained from a lawsuit is no exception to this requirement, and in some cases, you may have to forfeit your lawsuit money. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you navigate through the process of determining how your lawsuit money is handled during a bankruptcy filing in Marshall, MN.

The two main types of bankruptcy—Chapter 7 and Chapter 13—treat your income differently. When you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your income is considered in balance with your debts in order to determine a suitable repayment plan. This means that your lawsuit money is taken into account for your debt repayment, but it remains generally untouched. The process of Chapter 7 bankruptcy is when your lawsuit money really comes into question.

Lawsuit Money With Chapter 7

In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your assets will be liquidated in order to repay your creditors and discharge your debts. While it’s almost always beneficial to Chapter 7 filers to have these debts discharged, they still have to sacrifice many of their property assets in the process.

Lawsuit money falls into the category of assets in a bankruptcy estate. This includes any money you have received/expect to receive/are entitled to receive from a lawsuit case. In some situations—for example, if you did not have many assets and were in a position to potentially file a lawsuit against a person or entity—your bankruptcy trustee has the right to pursue that claim on your behalf. However, the money from any lawsuit will be used to pay your creditors and discharge your debts unless you can use an exemption.

Exemptions can work to protect the income you’ve earned from a lawsuit. In Minnesota, you can exempt lawsuit money from liquidation if it’s protected under certain exemption laws. For example, Minnesota exemption laws protect lawsuit money from cases involving personal injury, wrongful death, and damaged exempt property (e.g. if your home is wrongfully damaged after it was protected with a Homestead Exemption.)

Federal exemption laws also protect lawsuit settlements involving wrongful death, personal injury, and future incomes lost. Depending on your financial situation, you may choose federal or Minnesota exemption laws to protect your lawsuit money.

Behm Law Group, Ltd. works with you through the process of filing for bankruptcy in Marshall, MN, to help you choose exemptions and protect your assets during Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings. For more information, contact us at (507) 387-7200 today.

Getting Automatic Stays Fast and Filing for Emergency Bankruptcy in Luverne, MN

There are times in many people’s lives when financial emergencies come suddenly. Whether it happens because of a failed investment, a major business loss, stock market crashes, or other unexpected life events, financial difficulties can arise in a matter of minutes. When issues like this loom over your income and assets, filing for bankruptcy may be your best option. When you file for bankruptcy, however, the process can take up to several months to reach the point where you have submitted all of the necessary documentation to your attorney. In cases where you need the protection of the bankruptcy code sooner rather than later, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you file for bankruptcy on an emergency basis in Luverne, MN.

The most important immediate result of filing for such a bankruptcy filing is getting the automatic stay fast.  The automatic stay of 11 U.S.C. Sec. 362 is actually a court-mandated injunction that blocks the collection activities of most of one’s creditors. If you have filed for bankruptcy relief, it’s almost certain that the automatic stay was in effect and prevented your creditors from collecting or contacting you during your bankruptcy proceeding.

Steps in Filing for Emergency Bankruptcy:

  1. Collect the required documents needed to file for emergency bankruptcy. The attorneys at Behm Law Group, Ltd. will help you throughout this process
  2. To get the automatic stay as quickly as possible, you must file a Voluntary Petition (Form 1), a statement of your SSN (Form 21), and Mailing Matrix information denoting the addresses of your creditors
  3. Once your initial forms have been processed and the automatic stay is in effect, you must complete the filing of the remaining required bankruptcy forms within 14 days of the filing date. This period can be extended upon request by your attorney.

Filing an emergency bankruptcy petition is a way for individuals and businesses to access the bankruptcy system immediately and get some “breathing space” and time to gather all other necessary paperwork without ongoing creditor harassment.  The process of emergency bankruptcy does not eliminate any of the other necessary standard forms needed to complete your petition, but instead rearranges the order in which you complete the majority of those forms. By completing Forms 1 and 21 along with a mailing matrix listing your creditors, attorneys, debt collectors, or any other agencies seeking payment, the automatic stay will be immediately in place.

Getting an automatic stay quickly when you’re in serious financial trouble is the best benefit of an emergency bankruptcy filing. This rearrangement for the process of filing for bankruptcy in Luverne, MN, allows a quick automatic stay to prevent continued financial struggles throughout your bankruptcy process. For more information about how an emergency bankruptcy can benefit you, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200.

Holding on to Retirement Plans and Pensions When Filing for Bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN

Sometimes financial difficulties arise when least expected, and tackling the burdens of debt can prove more and more trying as time passes. Even with the relief that the U.S. Bankruptcy Code can provide to households and individuals in need of debt alleviation, the stripping of assets with debt liquidation or the reorganization of debts with repayment plans does not solve all problems. If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can provide assistance with your petition so you can make the best out of a sticky situation.

For the majority of bankruptcy cases, pensions and retirement plans are left untouched. The U.S. Bankruptcy Code was designed to protect the filer as much as possible during and after the bankruptcy process, including shielding all pension funds and retirement plans with only a few exceptions.

Non-Exempt Pensions

The few pensions that do not qualify for an exemption from bankruptcy filings include the following:

  • Employee Stock Purchase Plans (ESPP)
  • Plans that are not considered legitimate retirement plans under sections of tax code indicated in the bankruptcy process
  • Plans that are not fully funded or that are incorrectly funded
  • Plans that are not in compliance with tax code in any other way, including roll-overs or transfers and plans without approval from the Internal Revenue Service
  • An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) inherited from anyone not your spouse

Automatically-Excluded Pensions

There are many types of pensions that are untouchable during the bankruptcy process because they are considered excluded from your asset stockpile (your estate). As such, you do not need to claim them as exempt, but you should still offer information about these accounts to your trustee and attorney.

Automatically-excluded pensions include the following:

  • Plans under IRC 414(d) (most government retirement plans)
  • Plans under IRC 567 (most deferred compensation plans)
  • Plans under IRC 530(1)(b) (most educational IRAs)
  • Plans under IRC 403(b) (most tax deferred annuity plans)
  • Plans that qualify under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)

There are also several forms of non-excluded retirement funds and pensions that you can claim as exemptions in your bankruptcy case; however, these codes change between state exemption laws and federal exemption laws. You can elect to choose either state or federal exemptions when you file for bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN, depending on which will benefit you most in the long term. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can provide the legal advice you need to make these kinds of decisions throughout the bankruptcy process. Contact us today at (507) 387-7200 for more information.

What, When, and Why With the Wildcard Exemption When Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN

When it comes to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the idea established with the bankruptcy code was to find a balance between the discharging or getting rid of one’s debts and allowing one to retain enough assets to reorganize and not endure further financial hardship.  Indeed, it would not make much sense and it would not be of any public benefit to take all of a one’s assets.  In such a case, the person would only continue to struggle and could not get back one’s feet.  Certain precautions and allowances have been set in place to protect a person against complete destitution after Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Exemptions for qualifying properties are the saving grace for someone who files for bankruptcy relief. At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we can work with you to determine which exemptions would apply to your particular circumstances when filing for bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN.

There are several kinds of exemptions that you can use when filing for bankruptcy relief.  There are exemptions provided by the laws of the State of Minnesota and there are exemptions provided by the bankruptcy code. One exemption that allows you to protect certain assets from liquidation is the wildcard exemption.

What is the wildcard exemption?

When you file for bankruptcy relief, there are several exemptions that apply to specific types of property to prevent liquidation of those assets (e.g. homestead exemption or motor vehicle exemption). The wildcard exemption is a non-specific exemption that you can use to protect one or more assets from among several types of properties.  It is a spill-over or catch-all exemption that allows you to retain miscellaneous property for which there may not be a specific exemption.  In addition, it can allow you to double up on property. For instance if you own 2 vehicles, you could use the motor vehicle exemption to protect the first vehicle and the wildcard exemption to protect the second vehicle.  Alternatively, you could use the wildcard exemption to protect an asset, such as a snowmobile or a boat or a weapon, where there is no specific exemption that can be used to protect it.

When can you use the wildcard exemption?

Because the Minnesota exemption laws do not have a wildcard exemption, a bankruptcy filer can only use the wildcard exemption if one chooses the bankruptcy exemptions provided under the bankruptcy code. The current federal wildcard exemption amount is set at $1,250, but can change based on application. For example, when used in combination with one’s homestead exemption, one may use the federal wildcard exemption amount plus up to $11,850 of one’s unused homestead exemption amount for a total of $13,100.  One can use the wildcard exemption on any one item of property or one can split the amount between multiple items of property.

For example: If one owns a car worth $4,000, and one does not owe anything on the car, one’s equity is $4,000.  In this case, one could use the motor vehicle exemption of 11 U.S.C. §522(d)(2) to protect $3,775 of this amount and then use part of the wildcard exemption of 11 U.S.C. §522(d)(5) to protect the other $225.  Also, if one has a second car worth $5,000, one can use an additional amount of the wildcard exemption of 11 U.S.C. §522(d)(5) to protect it, too.

Why does the wildcard exemption exist?

The bankruptcy exemptions, including the wildcard exemption, were put in place to protect US citizens from irreparable loss and destitution. In the long run, allowing bankrupt individuals to keep assets with which to reorganize will in turn prevent unemployment from growing and keep the economy from falling.

For more information about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN, and how exemptions can help you keep your property, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200.

Motor Vehicle Exemptions and Keeping Your Vehicle When Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Relief in Redwood Falls, MN

At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we have often found that our clients considering bankruptcy know they could benefit from filing for Chapter 7 but balk at the idea of possibly losing some of their assets.  However, the concern about losing assets is often exaggerated.  The drafters of the bankruptcy code understood the need for households to hold on to some of their assets to prevent the bankruptcy process from doing more harm than good and to allow people to retain assets with which to reorganize their lives and maintain their financial security.  Thus, the drafters of the bankruptcy code included various exemption laws, which are very generous, that allow people to retain assets in bankruptcy. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you work through the process of filing for bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN, including identifying which exemptions can be applied to your case.

One major concern of those entering into the process of Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the potential loss of their motor vehicle.  For many families and individuals, the loss of a vehicle means the loss of any means of transportation.  However, 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(2) of the bankruptcy code allows for the exemption or retention of a motor vehicle. It is more accurate to state that the exemption allows the retention of an equitable interest in a motor vehicle rather than the retention of the vehicle itself.

The exemptible equity in your car is determined by its current market value balanced with the amount of your car loan. For example, if you own a car worth $5,000 and have a loan balance of $2,000, your motor vehicle equity is $3,000.  This $3,000.00 would constitute equitable interest that would be protected by or exempted with the applicable bankruptcy exemption.   It is possible to have $0 in equity if your loan is equal to the value of your car and it is possible to have a negative equity if your loan is greater than the value of your car. For instance, if your car is worth $5,000.00 and there is a $5,000.00 or $6,000.00 loan against it there would be no equity to protect or exempt with the applicable bankruptcy exemption.

Federal Exemption

The Federal motor vehicle exemption of 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(2), among other federal exemptions, changes every three years according to economic conditions and other factors. The current motor vehicle exemption amount is $3,775.  This means that if you have equity in your car less than the exemption amount, the bankruptcy trustee administering your bankruptcy case would not be able to take your motor vehicle, sell it and use the sale proceeds to pay a dividend your creditors.

Minnesota Exemption

In Minnesota, those filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy have the option of choosing either the federal exemptions or the Minnesota exemptions. The Minnesota motor vehicle exemption clocks in at a maximum of $4,600 in equity. The amount increases up to $46,000 for vehicles that accommodate physical disabilities and are eligible for handicapped parking spaces (but only if changes made to the vehicle are more than $3,450).

The bankruptcy exemption laws are designed to help you find ways to keep your motor vehicle and other assets, even if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief. For more information about exemptions you may qualify for and for help with filing for bankruptcy relief in Redwood Falls, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.

How Divorce and Filing for Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, Affect Each Other

Bankruptcy affects individuals of all economic statuses, and the people involved in a bankruptcy case or struggling financially are also often facing many other challenges in their lives. Unfortunately, low income and high debt—according to  statistics—are a leading cause of weakened relationships. At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we’ve found that some of our clients are facing the struggle of divorce alongside the imminent difficulty of filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

The problem with divorce law, when it comes to bankruptcy proceedings, is that both deal with finances between spouses. It’s virtually impossible to handle the process of divorce at the same time as the process of filing for bankruptcy. The real question isn’t how to combine the two together, rather, which legal process to tackle first.

Bankruptcy before Divorce

Most divorces are not the dramatic affairs portrayed on television. In the real world, spouses are often on good terms. If on good terms, we recommend that bankruptcy proceedings take precedence over divorce. Filing a joint petition as spouses means your debts are consolidated into one bankruptcy case. Combining your debts means you and your spouse could increase your chances of qualifying for Chapter 7 along with your exemptions. It also means you and your spouse can get rid of joint contracts you don’t want and eliminate your unsecured debts before divorce.   Most couples file for chapter 7 bankruptcy relief prior to starting a divorce because a bankruptcy can simplify the divorce process as there is no need for provisions for the assignment of debts in a divorce decree.

Divorce Before Bankruptcy

If your joint income is high enough to prevent you and your spouse from qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief and you’re on poor terms and don’t want to be forced into a chapter 13 bankruptcy and handle chapter 13 repayment plan after your divorce, you should consider completing divorce proceedings before filing for bankruptcy. Spouses can separately qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief after divorce because there are increased living expenses.  After a divorce, each spouse must support his or her own household on his or her own income instead of combining two incomes to support one household while married.  In addition, sometimes it is better to have marital assets divided as between spouses in a divorce proceeding prior to filing a bankruptcy proceeding.  Also, if one spouse winds up owing child support to the other spouse after a divorce the child support obligation can help the spouse who has to pay it qualify for chapter 7 bankruptcy relief when, otherwise, he or she would not be able to qualify.

For more information about how divorce can affect bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.