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Bankruptcy News & Recent Cases

Cramming Down Secured Debt With Chapter 12 Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN

June 19th, 2017 · No Comments

Today, the food industry is largely industrialized across the country, but there are some farming and fishing families still thriving today. However, because farming and fishing are some of the most difficult trades with which to support a household and maintain a healthy business, there are also a large number of financially struggling family farmers and family fishermen. For these family businesses, bankruptcy might be the best path to take. While our attorneys often handle cases for individuals working through Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, Behm Law Group, Ltd. also offers legal advice and assistance to family farmers and family fishermen filing for Chapter 12 bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

Chapter 12 works in many similar ways to Chapter 13, but is specifically designed to serve family farmers and family fishermen rather than a household or individual. Chapter 12 filers will work with their bankruptcy trustee to establish a 3 to 5-year repayment plan for their debts, where they must pay back 100% of their priority debts and to be determined portion of their other debts. The amount a family farmer or family fisherman must repay of non-priority debts is determined by their average income received within the 6 months prior to filing for bankruptcy.

There are ways, however, to reduce the amount of your secured debts as a family farmer or family fisherman filing for Chapter 12 bankruptcy. By effectively “cramming down” secured debts, you can lower your owed debt and pay less in the long run.

Cram Down: The cram down method is a way of bringing your debts back in time. This means you can reduce certain debts (for example boat loans, business mortgages, and farm equipment debts) to the present market value of the property. This method is effective on “upside down” loans where you owe more debt than the base value of the property. If you owe $4,000 on a loan after the accumulation of missed payments and interest and the collateral for the loan is worth $2,000.00, you can reduce that debt down to the base value, and you would not have to pay more than $2,000. In Chapter 13, cram downs are limited in many ways, but in a Chapter 12 case, the court can authorize the cram reduction of almost all secured debts, including your home mortgage and car loans.

Cramming down secured debts can often give a family farmer or family fisherman the ability to meet Chapter 12repayment plan requirements. For more information about cram downs and the process of filing for Chapter 12 bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.

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Meeting the Best Interest of Creditors in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN

June 16th, 2017 · No Comments

Bankruptcy in the U.S. is designed to give debtors methods of working through their financial obligations in a way that offers more leniency and payment options when repaying accumulated debt. Whether you file for reorganization or liquidation types of bankruptcy, you’ll be given a set of options that will help solve your debt case. However beneficial bankruptcy is to the filer, the process must also be equitable to the creditors involved. Behm Law Group, Ltd. offers legal advice and assistance that will help you navigate through your petition for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN.

If you file for reorganization bankruptcy, it’s likely you’ll be filing for Chapter 13. In this case, you’ll be working with a bankruptcy trustee to establish a repayment plan. The results of this plan will allow you to reorganize how you repay your debts, changing the amount that must be repaid and the time period in which it’s repaid. Your plan can make your debts vastly more manageable given your financial situation, but it’s required to also meet the best interest of your creditors.

Whether your repayment plan is fair to your creditors or not is a status determined by the Best Interest of Creditors Test.

Best Interest of Creditors Test

In a nutshell, you must repay priority debt creditors, such as tax creditors or child support creditors, the full amount you owe. This is a standard for all Chapter 13 cases. What varies from case to case is the amount you’ll repay to your non priority unsecured creditors, such as medical debts and credit card debts. This is where the Best Interest of Creditors Test comes into play. What the test measures is how much you’re repaying to your creditors, and if that amount is fair. The bottom line is that your repayment plan must repay, at minimum, the amount that creditors would have received from your liquidated assets if you had filed for Chapter 7 instead. This in turn depends on your property values and the exemptions you can claim.

Not only does the test decide whether you’re meeting your creditors’ best interests, but it also partially determines how much you’ll pay to priority unsecured creditors in your repayment plan.

The Best Interest of Creditors Test is most effective in determining if you’re meeting the minimum requirement for amounts repaid to nonpriority unsecured creditors. It doesn’t take your disposable income into account, but that amount will be considered outside of the test to determine the maximum amount you must repay. For legal help with your repayment plan and working through filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd.at (507) 387-7200 today.

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Using Charitable Contribution Deductions and Avoiding Fraudulent Transfers With Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN

June 12th, 2017 · No Comments

If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy and reach an approved petition and repayment plan, it’s guaranteed that you must use all of your disposable monthly income to meet your monthly debt repayment requirements. Before you file your petition, however, there are approved ways to lower your monthly requirements by lowering the amount categorized as disposable income. Working with a bankruptcy attorney during this time is important to ensure your safety against accidental fraud associated with transferring incomes. Behm Law Group LTD. provides the legal advice and assistance you need throughout the process of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN

One way to decrease your monthly payments by lowering your disposable income is by dedicating some of that income to charitable donations.

Charitable Deductions:

In order to reduce your disposable income with charitable donations, your donation expenses have to meet certain standards set by the US Bankruptcy Courts. First, the charity of your choice must be qualified under the tax code as a legitimate, government-approved religious or charitable organization. You can also donate to the government for public use of your funds, to your church, or to tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charities. Second, the donations must come from your own disposable income and not through other means under your control, such as your business or trust fund. Additionally, the donation must be monetary and the organization can’t be politically involved in legislative affairs or candidacies.

Fraudulent Transfer:

You may deduct up to 15% of your gross annual income for charitable donations to reduce the disposable income and lower monthly payment requirements in a Chapter 13 repayment plan. Any amounts over that 15% donated prior to filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be considered as breaking the fraudulent transfer law. This means that your bankruptcy trustee can take back the amount over 15% from the charity you chose for those donations. You will also have to prove you’ve been making regular donations to an approved charity to have the full amount of your expenses deducted from your disposable income.

In the months leading up to your petitioning for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Redwood Falls, MN, you can do a lot to optimize your repayment plan. With our bankruptcy attorneys advising you along the way, you can keep your petition legitimate as well as getting the most out of what Chapter 13 bankruptcy has to offer. For more information, contact Behm Law Group LTD. at (507) 387-7200.

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Working With the Best Effort Requirement When Filing for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Fairmont, MN

June 6th, 2017 · No Comments

If you’re considering filing for bankruptcy, you’ve probably started to do some research of your own and learning about your options. If you think you may qualify for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you might have already discovered that a long road of meeting financial and legal obligations set by the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, your bankruptcy trustee, and your creditors is ahead of you. Navigating these requirements is crucial to successfully working through a Chapter 13 petition and completing a repayment plan, but it can be a difficult process without the help of a well-versed professional. Behm Law Group, LTD. can provide that help with our experienced bankruptcy lawyers in Fairmont, MN

One stipulation you must continue to meet if you’re about to begin your repayment plan is the Best Effort requirement.

What is “Best Effort?”

Essentially, the Best Effort requirement demands that you must be able to prove you will use the entirety of your disposable income—any income you do not spend on taxes, household needs, transportation, or other debt payments—on meeting your monthly repayment plan installments. Specifically, your disposable income must be used to make payments to nonpriority unsecured creditors in your repayment plan.

Nonpriority Unsecured Debts

Your nonpriority unsecured debts (such as credit card debt, personal loans, and medical bills) may not always be paid back in full like your priority debts. The amount you pay back to your nonpriority unsecured creditors is again determined by your average income. If your income average over the six months prior to filing for bankruptcy falls below the Minnesota median income, the length of time you have to repay your nonpriority unsecured debts back can be as short as 36 months or 3 years; your creditors, accordingly, would receive lesser amounts. If your income is higher than state median, the length of time you have to repay your creditors must be 60 months or 5 years. In such a case, your creditors would receive larger amounts.

With the right guidance it’s easy to meet the Best Effort requirement and still have deduction options for your disposable income. Behm Law Group, LTD. can provide that guidance in the months leading up to your petition and throughout the process of filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. For more information about how our experienced bankruptcy lawyers in Fairmont, MN can give you the best legal advice and assistance with your bankruptcy case, contact us at (507) 387-7200 today.

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Good Faith and Debt Repayment Plans With Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN

May 31st, 2017 · No Comments

Your disposable income plays a large part in determining your path when it comes to filing for bankruptcy as an individual. This income is taken into consideration with your debts and the value of your assets and properties. The result decides whether you qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If your results don’t pass the Means Test, you may opt to work with a bankruptcy trustee to build a repayment plan and file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you’re considering filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd.  can provide legal assistance with your repayment plan and your petition.

A debt repayment plan with Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to reorganize your standing debts while keeping things balanced and fair between you and your creditors. You can’t propose a repayment plan to your trustee and the courts, however, if you don’t prove your good faith in repaying debts in full within a five-year period.

Good Faith:

Filing your petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy covers most of the required information, forms, and schedules for the process, but you must also provide your proposal for a repayment plan. The outline of your plan proposal describes your monthly payments towards priority debts, secured debts, and unsecured debts, and the term in which the selected amount of those debts will be repaid. This is where your “good faith” comes in.

In order for your petition to be fully-approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Courts, your bankruptcy trustee must be able to approve your good faith in using all your disposable income to meet your monthly repayment requirements.

Lacking Good Faith:

There are several reasons why your bankruptcy trustee may determine that you’re not in good faith for your repayment plan. Most of the time, if you’re lacking good faith, there will be some inconsistencies with your income, deductions, or petition. For example, if your current monthly income is subject to change during your repayment period and you do not notify the courts, your plan may be denied. If you’re found lacking in good faith, you may respond with an explanation, and your trustee may reexamine your standing.

Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you navigate the process of determining a repayment plan and holding a good faith standing when you file your petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in St. Peter, MN. If you’re considering bankruptcy contact us at (507) 387-7200 today.

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Claiming Excessive Exemptions and What You Can Buy Before Filing for Bankruptcy in New Ulm, MN

May 24th, 2017 · No Comments

Making prudent use of the financial help that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy can provide is one of the smartest things you can do if you’re overwhelmed by accumulated debts and financial obligations. Chapter 7 was designed to help people recover from crippling debt and get back on their feet financially. The U.S. Bankruptcy Courts have to treat each case with fairness to debtors and creditors alike, so Chapter 7 works as a balanced process. Behm Law Group, Ltd. helps filers with legal advice and assistance throughout the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in New Ulm, MN.

To keep things balanced between creditors and debtors, Chapter 7 bankruptcy works to discharge your debts while simultaneously liquidating your nonexempt assets, if any, to repay your creditors.  Most cases, however, are “no asset” cases which means that all of one’s assets are exempt and creditors don’t get paid anything.  It’s your job as a debtor to claim your own exemptions to prevent assets from being unnecessarily liquidated. The flipside to claiming exemptions, however, is that it’s possible to claim too many for your case.

Excessive Exemption Planning

Generally speaking, exemption planning—taking assets you may not be able to keep in bankruptcy and liquidating them and using the money to pay down your mortgage or purchase assets that you would be able to keep so you can maximize your exemptions—can be a tricky process. In fact, it can be considered fraudulent behavior and can be a basis for the dismissal of a bankruptcy case or a denial of all and any debt relief. That being said, there are times when exemption planning is possible when it comes to making purchases before filing for bankruptcy.

Purchasing Before Bankruptcy

Many purchases you make on credit before filing for bankruptcy can be construed as fraudulent use of credit and can render the subject credit debt non-dischargeable. For example, any debts you gather within 90 days before filing for bankruptcy that exceed $675 in total can be considered non-dischargeable. This applies to “luxury goods,” a term that covers most purchases that are not necessary to your household like televisions, furniture, trips to Hawaii or Europe. Purchases that you are allowed to acquire credit debt for within the 90-day period before filing for bankruptcy includes necessities like food, gas, rent, and auto care. These debts may still be petitioned for discharge.

Your spending during the 90-day period prior to filing for bankruptcy is flexible. If you make some bad choices, however, by “maxing out” your credit before filing for bankruptcy, many of your debts may not be discharged, and your case may even be dismissed. Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you navigate exemption planning and purchasing before you file for bankruptcy in New Ulm, MN. For more information, contact us today at (507) 387-7200.

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Converting Assets and Exemption Planning When Filing for Bankruptcy in Jackson, MN

May 17th, 2017 · No Comments

If you plan to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, having a bankruptcy lawyer is essential. In some cases, a person may have assets that he or she would not be able to retain either because the value of the assets are too high or there are no applicable bankruptcy exemptions to protect the assets.  Before filing for bankruptcy relief, you generally are allowed to rearrange your finances and property in a way that’s legal and allows you to maximize your bankruptcy exemptions to benefit you as much as possible. The more exemptions you can claim, the more of your assets you can protect from the liquidation process involved in a Chapter 7 case. The bankruptcy attorneys at Behm Law Group, Ltd. can assist you during this time and throughout the process of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Jackson, MN.

It’s possible for you to work with your attorney and convert many properties or cash itself into exempt assets without crossing the line into excessive exemption planning or fraud. The help of a bankruptcy attorney is crucial.  You first must determine the values of your assets and whether there are exemptions available that will protect them.  Also, you must determine if the value of a particular asset exceeds the allowance of the particular exemption with which you intend to protect it.

Nonexempt vs. Exempt

Generally speaking, if an asset is determined to be a basic need to the filer, it’s considered an exempt asset. U.S. Bankruptcy Courts do not want to strip filers of all their property, even if the value of those assets could be used to repay creditors for debts that are dischargeable. Homes, means of transportation, wages, and other important properties are categorized as exempt in the majority of Chapter 7 cases.

Nonexempt properties, however, are often involved in a Chapter 7 case. Many assets are considered nonexempt from the liquidation process because their value is needed for repayment in order to keep the process balanced between debtors and creditors.

Converting Assets

Spending your nonexempt assets (i.e., the money in your bank accounts) is one lawful way to make use of them for your benefit, but keep in mind you should only spend them on necessary items like food, gas, repairs to your vehicle.  You must not pay debts to friends or relatives or make gifts to friends or relatives or put assets into someone else’s name.  Also, you must remember that you will be asked by your lawyer and by the bankruptcy trustee administering your case for a thorough accounting concerning how you spent any non-exempt money and how you disposed of any non-exempt assets.  The Bankruptcy Code requires you to do this and you could be denied bankruptcy relief if you don’t do it.   Spending that money on luxury items such as expensive trips or fancy furniture or big screen televisions could also be considered excessive and could be scrutinized. Chapter 7 code also allows you to sell nonexempt properties and use the money gained to buy exempt assets (for example, selling a yacht and using that money to buy a household vehicle).

Unfortunately, it can be easy to cross the line from legitimate exemption planning and engage in conduct can be viewed as fraudulent or inappropriate. The help of our bankruptcy attorneys prior to filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Jackson, MN, is the key to doing exemption planning right. For more information, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200.

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Understanding Debt Repayment In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Mankato, MN

May 15th, 2017 · No Comments

Most individuals considering filing for bankruptcy have two main options: filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In the case of Chapter 7, a filer has qualified for this type of bankruptcy after passing the Means Test, determining that their debts and financial obligations outweigh their disposable income and estate value. The process of Chapter 7 liquidates assets, uses asset value to repay creditors, and discharges debts. However, even if a high income prevents qualification for Chapter 7, accumulated debts can cripple finances. If you cannot file for Chapter 7, you may choose debt reorganization with Chapter 13 bankruptcy. For any type of petition, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you through the process of filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed to take your monthly reasonable and necessary living expenses and weigh them against your monthly “net” take home income and the value of your assets. This type of bankruptcy reorganizes your debt repayment, effectively restructuring the process by which the creditors are paid to the best possible advantage to you.  Generally, unsecured creditors (credit card debts, medical debts, etc.) and priority creditors (tax debts, child support arrearages, etc.), receive no interest, no late fees, or any other default fees through the Chapter 13 process.

Because Chapter 13 cases vary so widely, it can be difficult for prospective bankruptcy candidates to apply the basic description of debt reorganization onto their own situation. Though the provisions of a Chapter 13 repayment plan may change from case to case, there are some constants across the board.

Amount to Pay

With most debts, a Chapter 13 repayment plan doesn’t change the amount you have to pay each particular creditor.  Rather, you make one monthly payment to a Chapter 13 trustee and the trustee divides that payment among your creditors pursuant to the provisions of your Chapter 13 plan.  The debts you will have to pay in full can include:

  1. Priority debts, such as alimony, child support, tax debts, and wages owed to employees.
  2. Mortgage delinquencies, if you plan on keeping your home throughout the bankruptcy process.

Other debts, however, may only be partially paid. This portion can be between 0% to 100% of what you originally owed the creditors. What you will have to pay is determined by your nonexempt estate value, your disposable income available to repay debt, and the period of your repayment plan.

Repayment Plan Length

Simply put, your income level directly determines the period of your repayment plan. There are two basic options when it comes to balancing your income with your debt repayment.

  1. If your monthly income is higher than the monthly median income in Minnesota for a household of similar size to your own, you will be required to file a five-year repayment plan.
  2. If your monthly income is lower than the monthly median income in Minnesota for a household of a similar size to your own, you may opt for either a three-year plan or a five-year plan.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy may seem more complicated than Chapter 7 bankruptcy, but for many, it’s exactly the right choice for financial recovery. For more information about filing for bankruptcy in Mankato, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200.

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

May 8th, 2017 · No Comments

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.

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Understanding Priority Debts When Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Marshall, MN

May 2nd, 2017 · No Comments

Those who are considering filing for bankruptcy most likely have more than one debt to tackle among their financial obligations. In fact, virtually every bankruptcy filer faces several debts accumulated over years. From mortgages to credit card debt, filers often have a wide range of debts to repay. If these filers pass the Minnesota Means Test, they qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which allows the majority of their debts to be discharged. If you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Marshall, MN, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you throughout the process of petitioning and filing with professional legal advice and assistance.

When it comes to discharging your debts in Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the process is determined by your exemptions, your qualifying debts, and a number of other factors regarding your household status. In a case where the bankruptcy trustee is able to collect money to pay some dividend to your creditors, the question remains of how the money will be allocated. First and foremost, any financial obligations falling into the category of “priority debt” will be paid something before any other debts such as credit card debts, medical debts, etc. receive anything.   11 U.S.C. §507 sets for the priority of how debts are to be paid in bankruptcy cases.

Priority debts will be paid first.  If there is any money left after those debts are paid, then other creditors with lower priority, such as credit card debts or medical debts, will receive a dividend from the trustee. Unfortunately for the filer, most priority debts are not subject to discharge and must be fully repaid.

Priority Debts: Debts involved in individual consumer bankruptcy cases are considered priority if they are categorized as the following:

  1. Deposits up to $2,850 for property purchases, leases, or rentals
  2. Deposits up to $2,850 for services pertaining to household, family, or personal use that were not provided
  3. Alimony, child support, or other familial maintenance and obligations
  4. Wages, salaries, commissions, or other compensations owed to employees up to $12,850 per person within 180 days of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
  5. Debts owed to farmers and fishermen up to $6,325 each
  6. Income taxes owed within three years before filing for bankruptcy
  7. Taxes withheld from employees but not paid to the taxing authorities by employers
  8. Any customs, duties, and penalties due to the federal, state, and local governments
  9. Personal injury or death claims against you from driving under the influence

With the help of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys, you can navigate your own case when it comes to priority debt, asset liquidation, and debt discharge. For more information about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Marshall, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 today.

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