Posts Categorized: Bankruptcy

Emergency bankruptcy in Minnesota

1. What is an emergency bankruptcy? An emergency bankruptcy filing is a way to stop impending collection action, like a garnishment, foreclosure sale, lawsuit or tax lien. Once the emergency case is filed, no collectors can take any action against you. And if they do anyway, we can sue them, or undo the action (at the very least). To file an emergency bankruptcy, we don’t need to file as much information as we would in a full bankruptcy. The emergency filing gives us14 days to file all the remaining bankruptcy documents.

2. How long does an emergency bankruptcy take? We can file an emergency case in a day or two, if it’s necessary. We’ve even filed them the same day as the initial client meeting. But keep in mind that the closer we are to the emergency, the better chance we wouldn’t be able to file it in time. Also, rush bankruptcy cases cost more than standard cases.

3. How to get all of your documents ready. Document collection might be the hardest part of bankruptcy. Here is our document collection checklist. The one thing that you need before filing an emergency case is a list of your creditors. As far as the full bankruptcy goes, there are a couple of things here that might be tricky. For example, you’ll need to have filed your most recent taxes before filing bankruptcy (your last four years of tax returns need to be filed for a Chapter 13). Self-employed bankruptcy filers need to provide a profit & loss. The more complicated the case, the harder you’ll have to work to make sure everything is filed in time. You should make sure to have these things before filing bankruptcy.

4. You’ll have to do your online credit counseling before an emergency filing. There’s no room for mistakes on this one. If your online credit counseling is not completed before a bankruptcy, the case will be dismissed. Talk to your attorney about how to get the case completed on a rush basis.

5. What happens if you can’t get all the documents filed after an emergency filing. If you can’t complete the full bankruptcy within 14 days of filing an emergency case, the case will be dismissed automatically by the court. On the one hand, this still achieved the desired effect—the bankruptcy still stopped the collection temporarily, which would have bought you some time. But on the other hand, it also could make it harder to re-file (the court can be a bit stricter with people who file multiple times).

If you need an emergency bankruptcy, get in touch with an attorney right away. But make sure to leave plenty of time!

Bankruptcy trustees are “clawing back” tuition paid for debtors’ kids

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Bankruptcy Trustees are using a legal argument called “fraudulent transfer” to take back tuition payments clients have made 7027599019_ffc018d450_mto their children’s colleges. This can be a shock to people, but trustees do things like this all the time.

Here’s how it works:

Under bankruptcy law, all the property you have at the time of your bankruptcy filing is part of the bankruptcy estate. If you have property above certain exemption amounts, the trustee can demand turnover of that property. This would seem to incentivize people to get rid of assets before filing bankruptcy. You can understand the temptation for someone to sell their boat to their brother for $1.00. (more…)

5 Tips for Streamlining Your Bankruptcy

Go Fast!

Photo by Eric Ward aka a4gpa

The number one thing that slows down a bankruptcy case is the speed with which clients can assemble the necessary documents. By following these five tips, you can ensure that your bankruptcy moves quickly, and that you’re prepared for any issues that could arise during the process.

Go Paperless.

It’s time to get rid of that mountain of paperwork and bills. Sign up to receive digital statements from your bank and financial accounts, and request to receive your pays stubs digitally. It also pays to switch your utilities, mortgage, car payments and regular payments to e-bills. This allows you to stay up to date on your assets and liabilities, and makes submitting your documents to your attorney as easy as sending an email. (more…)

Divorce debts in Chapter 13 bankruptcy

I wrote last week about how to deal with divorce debts in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Chapter 13 has different rules and different ways to deal with family court debts.

Photo by Chris Potter

Photo by Chris Potter

1. Chapter 13 can’t discharge domestic support obligations. Domestic support obligations (child support/maintenance) can’t be wiped out in any form of bankruptcy, Chapter 7 or 13. In Chapter 13, to get a discharge the debtor must pay all child support/maintenance arrears, as well as all payments due during the three to five years of the Chapter 13 plan. (more…)

Divorce debts in Chapter 7 bankruptcy



Photo by Magdalena Beckah

Divorce is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy. People often have questions about how to deal with debts from their divorce. Depending on how a debt is categorized in the divorce decree, you might be able to wipe it out in bankruptcy, or it might stick around.

1. Child support and maintenance cannot be discharged in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Certain debts in bankruptcy are called “domestic support obligations,” including child support and spousal maintenance/alimony. These debts can never be discharged in bankruptcy, and are also “priority” debts, meaning that if the trustee gets any money from you, those debts are paid off first. (more…)

Chapter 7 lien stripping a new possibility

We know that you can strip a completely unsecured second mortgage lien in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. However, at least one court (the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals) has ruled that you can strip a second mortgage after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and it looks like the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether that applies to the whole country. (more…)

I forgot to add a creditor to my bankruptcy

As hard as we try to find all of your creditors before a bankruptcy, every once in a while one slips through the cracks. What happens when a creditor gets left out?

1. First of all, don’t get any ideas. All creditors are “included” in bankruptcy. You can’t leave one out, purposely or accidentally. So there’s no point in “forgetting” to list a creditor, for example, in hopes that you can keep a credit card open. And remember, you sign your bankruptcy under penalty of perjury, so it’s illegal to leave any information out of your bankruptcy papers. And as your attorney, I know better and won’t let it happen. So don’t try. (more…)

Same-sex married couples can file bankruptcy together

We wrote about the evolving status of same-sex couples in bankruptcy here and here. Now that the Supreme Court has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages valid in the state in which they were performed. Although this specific issue hasn’t come to bankruptcy court, it’s clear that the bankruptcy system will have to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling and allow same-sex married couples to file joint bankruptcy cases.

1. Anyone legally married in Minnesota can file bankruptcy together in Minnesota. Any married couple can file a joint bankruptcy case if their bankruptcy was legally performed in Minnesota. This includes same-sex couples whose weddings were performed on or after August 1, 2013. (more…)

How to deal with student loans

By many accounts, student loan debt has reached crisis levels. Among our clients, it’s a huge issue that can be very difficult to solve. As total student loan debt in the United States approaches $1 trillion, many borrowers are going into default. On federal student loans alone, the number of people who went into default during the first three years after graduation was a staggering 13.4 percent. There are a few things borrowers can do to deal with runaway student loans.

1. If the loan is not in default. If a federal student loan is not in default, there are numerous repayment options available, including Income Contingent Repayment (ICR) and Income-Based Repayment (IBR). Each of these programs allow a borrower to pay a percentage of his income to his loans (sometimes as low as zero percent) and the remaining debt is forgiven after a number of years (20-25). The government has a web site that allows you to explore these options.

2. If the loan is in default. A federal loan goes into default if it has not been paid for more than 270 days. Once default occurs, repayment plans like IBR and ICR aren’t available anymore and the student lender can (and will) tack on a 25 percent collection fee to the balance. The lender can then garnish wages, etc. If a loan is in default, your best bet is rehabilitation. To rehabilitate the loan, the borrower makes “reasonable and affordable” payments for 9 out of 12 months. Once these payments have been made, the loan can brought back out of default. Once it’s out of default, ICR and IBR are on the table again.

3. Discharge outside bankruptcy.  A federal loan can be administratively discharged by the U.S. Government for a few reasons. These include things like the borrower becomes totally disabled or the school closes while the borrower is attending. These debts are discharged by a borrower submitting a form to to the lender.

4. Private student loans are a whole different story. Private student loans have hardly any of the protections that a federal student loan borrower has. If a borrower goes into default on a private loan, his best bet is just to negotiate with the lender for an affordable payment plan. On the other hand, private student lenders have to sue you to collect their money, while federal lenders can skip the legal process and go right to garnishment.

5. Discharge in bankruptcy. Contrary to popular belief, student loans can be discharged in bankruptcy, but it’s not always easy. A student loan can be discharged if paying it would cause “undue hardship” to the borrower. It’s not totally clear what this means, since different courts have interpreted this in different ways, but it’s definitely something more than just not being able to afford to pay off loan on a borrower’s current income. A borrower generally has to show that she will never be able to pay off the loan to have it wiped out in bankruptcy.

6. Payment plans in Chapter 13. One last option for borrowers struggling to pay private loans is Chapter 13 bankruptcy. In Chapter 13, a borrower can force the lender to enter a repayment plan over a five-year period.  This can be necessary where a borrower is being sued and the lender is demanding the full amount to be paid at once “or else.” The downside to this approach is that if the court-ordered payments are low enough, interest will accumulate faster than it’s paid off and the borrower will owe more at the end of the five years.

We can help explain any of these options to you. Get in touch if you want to discuss how to deal with student loans.

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Watch out for fraudulent transfers in bankruptcy

A fraudulent transfer is a transfer of property before filing bankruptcy that may get you in trouble. If you’ve given away or sold any property in the six years before filing a bankruptcy case. you might be on the hook after your bankruptcy.

1. When you’re actively trying to screw your creditors. An actual fraudulent transfer is where the bankruptcy debtor transfers property actually intending to evade his creditors. So for example, a bankruptcy filer gives away a car to her nephew three months before filing bankruptcy because she doesn’t want her creditors to be able to seize it. That may be a fraudulent transfer. And the bankruptcy trustee can go after the bankruptcy filer and her nephew to get back the car (or the cash value of it.) An actual fraudulent transfer can also result in the bankruptcy discharge being taken away.

2. When you’re not trying to screw your creditors, but do it anyway. A constructive fraudulent transfer is where the bankruptcy debtor gives away property and doesn’t get fair value for it. So the bankruptcy filer isn’t trying to evade creditors, but sells her car to her nephew for $1,000 when it’s really worth $10,000. The bankruptcy trustee may have a claim against the filer and her nephew for the remaining $9,000 value of the car. Because this kind of transfer isn’t made with bad intent, it won’t be a basis for taking away the bankruptcy discharge. The trustee must show that the bankruptcy filer (1) was insolvent; and (2) didn’t get fair value back for the transfer.

3. The person who received the transfer may also be on the hook. The bankruptcy debtor isn’t the only one who can be chased by the trustee for a fraudulent transfer. The person who received the goods can also be sued. The best defenses the recipient may have are (1) that the property wasn’t actually worth anything in the first place; and (2) the transferee accepted the property in good faith and gave back fair value for the property.

4. The trustee can look back six years to find fraudulent transfers. The bankruptcy forms require a filer to disclose any transfer made within the two years before filing. However, the trustee can go after any fraudulent transfer made up to six years back. So people who have a fraudulent transfer in their past often wait until the time limit is passed before filing a bankruptcy.

We deal with fraudulent transfer issues all the time. If you have questions about a fraudulent transfer you made before your bankruptcy, or if you’re being sued by a trustee, get in touch.