Doubling Exemptions With Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy In Windom, MN

Many of the Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 cases we work with are either individuals or households filing for bankruptcy. For those struggling financially with debts accumulated over the years, bankruptcy is often a beneficial option. When it comes to a family in need of bankruptcy help, it can actually be a good thing for married couples to own joint property. Owning property with your spouse plays a big role in a household’s ability to double exemptions. Behm Law Group, Ltd. provides expert legal advice and assistance to help a household work with exemptions and petitioning for bankruptcy in Windom, MN.

Exemptions

Exemptions are allotted amounts that depend on variables like federal or state regulations and the total of a debt. You may apply exemptions to certain properties during the bankruptcy process to prevent some or all of the value of those properties to be used for debt repayment.

Using your exemptions during a Chapter 7 case can significantly increase the amount of your property you may keep. In Chapter 13, more exemptions equal less paid back to unsecured creditors during your repayment plan.

 Doubling

If you’re married, you might have the option of filing for joint bankruptcy with your spouse. A joint case, however, is only applicable if you have debts that are in both of your names, meaning you jointly owe a debt such as jointly obligated on a house mortgage. If you and your spouse both have your names on the assets that would be subject to the bankruptcy process, you can then double your exemptions on those joint assets.

Doubling your exemptions in a joint case means you and your spouse are each able to claim the amount you would claim as an individual filer. In Minnesota, filers are able to choose between federal exemptions and state exemptions, depending on their debt amounts and abilities to double an exemption.

For example: The Minnesota Motor Vehicle Exemption allows up to $4,600 of an for people who own motor vehicles. If you and your spouse are both listed on the title of a vehicle worth $9,200, you both have an ownership interest in and to that vehicle.  In order to protect and keep it in a bankruptcy proceeding each of you could assert your independent $4,600 exemptions and stack them together ($4,600 x 2 = $9,200) and protect the entire $9,200 value of the vehicle.

If you and your spouse are considering filing for bankruptcy in Windom, MN, keep in mind that you can jointly file and, if you both own the subject property/assets, double or stack your bankruptcy exemptions. For more information about your options with joint bankruptcy, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200.

Selling in Foreclosure and Automatic Stay in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN

Owning a home with a mortgage is a major expense, and often, mortgage debts and foreclosure play a large part in filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you own a home and are having difficulty meeting mortgage payments, choosing to file might be the best course of action to recover from financial harm. Behm Law Group, Ltd. provides legal assistance to homeowners filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN.

If you’re facing foreclosure on your home, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can actually turn your troubles concerning mortgage debt around. However, that result all depends on a few things.

  1. Your home equity and Homestead Exemption: The method of Chapter 7 bankruptcy is to liquidate assets to repay your creditors and discharge debts. This process is much more complex in practice. In fact there are several steps in determining which properties can be liquidated and which debts can be discharged. Your home equity and the home exemption amount you can claim decide how your mortgage and home will be treated in Chapter 7.
  2. Your bankruptcy trustee’s commission: In cases where your home qualifies for liquidation in a Chapter 7 case, your trustee is incentivized with a commission from the sale. Starting with the difference of the sale against the debt owed, your trustee will take 25% on the first $5,000 made, 10% on the next $50,000, and 5% on the remainder below $1 million.
  3. How long Automatic Stay lasts: When you enter into the bankruptcy process, the court issues an automatic stay, which immediately prevents your creditors from collecting. If your home is in foreclosure, your debts will still be placed under the automatic stay for some or all of the time it takes to process your case. If your creditors press the court to lift automatic stay, you may be faced with continuing to make payments to them even while you’re in the process of filing for bankruptcy. However, if the automatic stay lasts for a month or two, you can still save a significant amount from keeping those monthly mortgage payments.
  4. If you will keep your home: Whether or not you will keep your home depends on the exemption you can claim and your unprotected equity. If your home is not in the situation to provoke liquidation, you can keep your home after bankruptcy, and if you negotiate terms with your lender before filing, you can change payments on your mortgage. If your equity and exemption amount trigger a sale, selling in foreclosure can also be beneficial because your mortgage debt will be discharged and you may gain tax advantages.

 *Determining your unprotected equity can be done with the following equation:

(Market Value of Home) – (Homestead Exemption) – (Trustee Commission) – (Cost of Selling the Home) – (Mortgage Debt) – (All Non-Mortgage Liens on the Home) = (Your Unprotected Equity)

For more information about how foreclosure affects your mortgage and home status during Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Pipestone, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.

Protecting Your Money and How Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN, Affects Your Bank Accounts

If you’re struggling financially, your debts and obligations may seem looming and unmanageable, but for many, the idea of bankruptcy is even more alarming. At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we find that many of our clients have had no reason to become familiar with the process of bankruptcy in the past and have unwarranted fears of how bankruptcy may impact them. If you’re balking over filing for bankruptcy because of an apprehension of negative side effects, let us help you. Bankruptcy is designed to help debtors regain their financial footing, and with Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN, you can get the fresh start you need.

Many individuals hesitating at the thought of bankruptcy have worries about how the process will impact their credit and properties. For example, the fear of how your bank account will be handled is a common source of anxiety during bankruptcy.

These fears, however, are unnecessary nearly 100% of the time. In fact, for the vast majority of individuals filing for bankruptcy, a case in itself will not affect your bank accounts in any way. Checking, savings, and other types of bank accounts are left untouched in the typical individual consumer Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.

When Your Bank Account is Impacted

Although most of the time an individual filer’s bank accounts will not be touched during a bankruptcy case, there are a few unusual circumstances that may affect the status of an account or the value within. These circumstances include:

  • If a debtor has a total balance across all accounts that is greater than the exemption allowances they are allowed with which to protect property
  • If a debtor owes funds to the bank or credit union where their accounts are held
  • If a debtor owns accounts with banks or organizations that freeze accounts during a Chapter 7 case (e.g. Wells Fargo or Union Bank or Bank of the West)

Except for these uncommon circumstances, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case does not generally impact bank accounts.

Protection with Exemptions

When filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Minnesota, individual filers may choose to use state exemptions or federal exemptions. In the case where your bank account funds are not exempt from the process of liquidation, those funds are considered assets and are surrendered to the bankruptcy trustee. If your funds can be protected by an exemption, however, they will remain untouched during the bankruptcy case.

Exemptions that protect your bank account funds vary from case to case depending on how you choose to use certain transferable exemptions, such as the federal wildcard exemption.

The fear of losing the money in your bank accounts should not prevent you from filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN. For more information about how your bank accounts are impacted during the bankruptcy process and for bankruptcy consultations, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.

Understanding Non-Dischargeability Complaints When Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Luverne, MN

Filing for bankruptcy throws one’s debts into question in front of a Bankruptcy Court, one’s attorney, and one’s creditors. If one has passed the Means Test and is qualified to move forward with Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the dischargeability of one’s debts is generally not in dispute. Throughout the process of bankruptcy, however, questions and concerns are can arise from all parties involved. Behm Law Group, Ltd. provides legal advice and assistance to those filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Luverne, MN.

In some chapter 7 bankruptcy cases, non-exempt assets (assets one is not able to protect with one’s bankruptcy exemptions) are liquidated and the sale proceeds are used to pay some dividend to one’s creditors.  The good news is that, in most cases, all of one’s debts are discharged, leaving one permanently free of many crushing financial obligations. However, sometimes creditors may have a legal basis to file a non-dischargeability complaint against a debtor under 11 U.S.C. §523.  This means that sometimes a creditor has a good reason to ask a bankruptcy court not to grant a debtor debt relief as to a particular debt.

Non-Dischargeability Complaints

A complaint filed about the legitimacy of the discharge of one’s debt is technically a lawsuit and it is labeled an “adversary proceeding”. If a creditor files a non-dischargeability compliant, one will be given a summons and the process will take place partially by mail and partially in the bankruptcy court. The complaint is served on the defendant and the defendant has the right to respond in his or her own defense (and with the help of an attorney).  Some examples of grounds justifying a non-dischargeability complaint are:  1.) One has incurred significant debt on a credit card within a short time before filing a bankruptcy; 2.) One has misrepresented one’s financial condition, either verbally or in writing, to a lender and the lender has made a loan relying on the misrepresentations; 3.) One has willfully and intentionally caused financial injury or physical injury to someone.

If a creditor has filed the complaint without proper legal standing, or if the complaint is unclear to one as a debtor, one may file a motion to dismiss the claim or force the creditor to provide a complaint with more specificity. Complaints filed against fraudulently incurred debts or other scenarios, as listed above, must be identified correctly and clearly or one may file a motion to dismiss the complaint.

Responding to a clearly defined complaint against the dischargeability of a debt requires an answer to each paragraph of the compliant provided by the creditor. The help of a bankruptcy attorney during this response time is crucial for one to have optimal access to legal information and to assert one’s rights as a defendant. If one does not respond to the complaint, the case will proceed by default, and the debt in question will be excepted from discharge.

For more information about a non-dischargeability complaint and why it’s important to take advantage of the help an attorney can provide during this time, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200. You can also count on us for advice and assistance if you are considering filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy or Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Luverne, MN.

Getting Rid of Tax Debts with Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN

Tax debts are a common problem for most struggling with accumulated financial burdens. Because taxes are so varied and ultimately required of every U.S. citizen able to work and own property, the debts associated with taxes are equally varied and unavoidable. While most of the time you cannot discharge tax debts with bankruptcy, there are times when it’s possible to treat those debts with Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you determine if and how your tax debts can be cleared when filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

Although possible, it can be difficult to discharge your tax debts with bankruptcy. Only when your case meets several requirements can your tax debts be discharged.

Requirements for Discharging Tax Debts:

  1. Your tax debts must be income tax debts. While you may have several other types of tax debts, only your income tax debts can be discharged with Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  2. Your tax debts must be three or more years old. If your tax debt was due at least three years before you petition for bankruptcy, these debts can be considered for discharge.
  3. You must have filed a return for your tax debt at least two years prior to filing your bankruptcy petition. This return must have been filed on time, your extensions cannot have expired at the time of filing, and the IRS cannot have filed a substitute return for you.
  4. You cannot have committed any purposeful fraud or evasion on your tax return at the time of the incurred tax debt. If courts determine you have used any means of illegal tax fraud, you cannot qualify for tax debt discharge.
  5. You must have your tax debt examined by the IRS 240 days before filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This is called the 240-day rule, and is designed to determine whether your tax debt qualifies for discharge based on the previously listed rules. Your tax debt may also qualify for the 240-day rule if it has not yet been assessed before the time of your bankruptcy petition.

If, and only if, your tax debts meet ALL of these conditions can they be discharged with Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you’re planning on filing for bankruptcy to rid yourself of primarily tax debts, be aware of the strict conditions. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you through the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Mankato, MN. Contact us today at (507) 387-7200 for more information.

What to Do When Creditors Harass You After Your Chapter 7 Debt Settlement in Windom, MN

Those who have accumulated debts they can’t handle alone often find rescue in filing for bankruptcy. Today’s U.S. Bankruptcy Code is designed to protect individuals and businesses from falling into even more critical financial situations. The idea of being bankrupt can leave a bad taste in one’s mouth and, while one might not enjoy having to go through bankruptcy process, there are many benefits. Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy alleviates debt and opens the door to a fresh start financially. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you through the process of filing for bankruptcy and completing your debt settlement in Windom, MN.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is designed to discharge the majority of your debts and allow you to retain your assets. With this form of bankruptcy, you will have a clear beginning, middle, and end of the process.

Do debts still matter?

When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, your debts are addressed, and when the process is over, your debts won’t come back into your life. They are permanently discharged.  The only lingering effect of Chapter 7 bankruptcy is that your case will stay on your public credit profile for 3 to 6 years. After filing for Chapter 7, the debts that were discharged are gone forever.  You will not have to handle other financial consequences from the debts discharged in your case.  Paradoxically, you will be more of an attractive credit risk for creditors than you were before your case was filed.  This is because future creditors know that the creditors discharged in your bankruptcy are gone for good and that they will now be able to be first in line for payment from you going forward and will not have to be in competition with your previous creditors.

In short, the debts addressed in a Chapter 7 case don’t matter anymore. You don’t continue making payments, and you won’t be in contact with your creditors again.

Why are my creditors still harassing me?

But if your debts don’t matter after you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, why are your creditors still in contact with you, and in many cases, still harassing you? There are several reasons why this might be happening. Most of the time, your creditors haven’t heard that you’ve entered into the bankruptcy process yet. Even if your case is not completed, your creditors are legally obligated to stall collections. However, it can take up to two weeks for your creditors to be notified that you’ve entered into the process. If it’s been over two weeks and your creditors are still harassing you, they may be trying to get away with illegal collections. Creditors may try to take advantage of your lack of knowledge about the nuances of bankruptcy by telling you that you filed for the wrong kind of bankruptcy, that your debts aren’t covered by your case, or that you still have to pay interest on a settled debt. Behm Law Group attorneys protect our clients from this fraudulent behavior as we work with you through the bankruptcy process.

If you’re considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and you’re concerned about your debt settlement in Windom, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today for a consultation.

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.

The Top 3 Mistakes Made on the Minnesota Means Test When Filing for Bankruptcy in Jackson, MN

Chapter 7 bankruptcy can be incredibly beneficial for those who are struggling with credit card debt, unmanageable mortgages, and most other forms of accumulated debt. Financially, Chapter 7 discharges the majority of your debt and liquidates your non-exempt assets in order to pay your creditors. While these may seem like drastic measures, Chapter 7 bankruptcy can effectively reset your financial standings, giving you the best restart you could expect. Behm Law Group, Ltd. understands that debt can come from many different sources, and if you need to file for bankruptcy in Jackson, MN, we’re on your side for legal advice and assistance throughout the process.

When you file for bankruptcy as an individual, the most common options you can choose between are Chapter 13 (debt reorganization) and Chapter 7 (debt/discharge/asset liquidation). To those with a low income or with no way of continuing to pay their debts even with a debt reorganization plan in place, Chapter 7 is the most attractive and viable option. To qualify for Chapter 7, however, you must pass the state Means Test with a disposable income lower than the median income of an equivalent Minnesota household.

Without legal support and advice like the help Behm attorneys can provide, the Means Test can prove difficult, nuanced, and complex. Even those with a low income have failed to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after making these common mistakes on the Means Test:

  1. Many people list child support on their Means Test that they are supposed to receive but do not for one reason or another, and this can completely change the test results. The same goes for those who list child support they are supposed to pay but do not. You should only list what you receive and what you pay.
  2. Household sizes are frequently listed inaccurately on Means Tests, and this can change the recorded outcome of who depends on your disposable income, altering the results of your test overall. Your household size is most frequently determined by who is legally dependent on your disposable income (e.g. minors or disabled dependents).
  3. Often accidentally, Chapter 7 filers list an incorrect income. This in itself can render you ineligible. To even be considered for the outcome of the Means Test, your recorded income MUST match your actual income. Dates, exact numbers, recorded paychecks, and all sources of income should be detailed as exactly as possible.

There are many other mistakes found on Means Test reported across the country, and those who are considering filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can gain a lot from professional assistance. Behm Law Group, Ltd. is here to help. Contact us at (507) 387-7200 for more information about filing for bankruptcy in Jackson, MN.

How to Qualify for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN, With a High Disposable Income

Whether you’ve become overwhelmed with credit card debt, accumulated debts over the years that outweigh your income, or struggled financially for any other reason, filing for bankruptcy might be your best course of action. For most individuals, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a popular option because it alleviates a large amount of debt and makes rebuilding credit possible for even the poorest scores. However, qualifying for Chapter 7 requires passing the Means Test, and if you have an income higher than the median Minnesota income for a household similar to yours, you may not qualify. Behm Law Group, Ltd. attorneys can help you determine if it’s possible to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN, even with your high income.

Despite how black and white the pass/fail system of the Means Test may seem, it is possible to find gray area when it comes to qualifying for Chapter 7 bankruptcy with a high disposable income. The Means Test is designed to weigh all the aspects of your financial situation, and as long as everything is documented correctly, it’s possible to qualify for Chapter 7 with a high income if your situation meets one or more of the following standards:

  • Your number of financial dependents is high enough to overbalance your income. More dependents to support means more money spent out of your income.
  • You owe child support, back taxes, overdue payments on car loans, attorney fees, mortgage, or other property.
  • Your car or mortgage payments are high and prevent your income from being high enough to work with a debt repayment plan through Chapter 13.
  • The majority of your debts are business related, not consumer related. This can include business and personal income tax debts, personal loans for business, and credit card debts accumulated from purchasing for your business.
  • You are currently on active duty or have been active within the previous 540 days for the National Guard or other military reserve.

These standards act to balance out your income with your financial obligations and debts. Even with a high income, aspects of your financial situation may mean that the money you earn is outweighed by the money you spend.

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