Top 7 Myths About Bankruptcy: Myth No. 3 – My Credit Will Be Ruined For 10 Years or More

Credit report obtained by lawyer

By Dave Kelly, Minnesota Bankruptcy Lawyer

I don’t claim to be a credit expert. What I know about credit and the effect of bankruptcy filing on it is what I hear from my clients. Almost everything I know is hearsay. It would not be admissible as evidence in court. But I’ve heard the same thing many times and from many different people. I may have some wisdom on the subject that I can pass along.

Won’t Bankruptcy Wreck My Credit?

One of the most common questions I hear is on the phone is “won’t filing bankruptcy wreck my credit forever?” Typically these callers are deep in debt. They are spending all their energy trying to juggle various credit accounts – accounts that they will never be able to pay. They may be using credit to pay credit, taking cash advances on one to make payments on another. The juggling act gets to the point that it is hard to think about or imagine anything else.

The answer to the question is NO. It is true that the bankruptcy filing will show on your credit report for ten years. But it is not true that your credit will be harmed for that whole time.

You’ll Get Credit Offers Right After Your Bankruptcy is Filed

Almost as soon as the case is filed, there are predatory lenders who will offer you credit cards and car loans. The terms for these will be terrible. Interest rates will be high, late fees will be high, and credit limits will be low. It is best to avoid these credit offers if you can. My advice as a general rule usually is stay away from these offers and live without credit for a while. One exception might be when you need a credit card for work or for essential travel. If you do get such a card, it’s important to pay it off every month. Don’t let them get their hooks into you again.

Another exception would be when you just have to get another car. Surrendering your previous car might have been necessary. You may have been really up-side-down on the loan, or you may have had a catastrophic mechanical issue. But now the only way to get another vehicle might be to get one of the loans you are being offered.

Three Years After Bankruptcy

Your credit prospects will improve with time. Within one year after your bankruptcy, you may be surprised to see your credit score going up. At first that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be eligible for much. But after a couple more years of clean living, you will start noticing that your credit has bounced back. At about the three year mark after the case is completed, I will typically get a phone call from my former clients. My clients tell me that they are about to refinance a mortgage, buy a house or buy a car. There is a loan officer who says the loan will be approved, but first some details about the bankruptcy are needed. This is info that I can email. They thank me for my help in getting the loan. Also they usually tell me that things are really going well and they are glad they did the bankruptcy.

There is a point somewhere between three and five years after the case is done where the bankruptcy just doesn’t affect credit any more. The greatly improved debt to income ratio may even result in much better credit than before.

Credit Might Not Be Helping You

Maybe your credit looks pretty good right now. But if you are doing a juggling act to keep it up, it might be hurting you more than helping. Imagine what it would be like to get off the treadmill and be free of all that debt. If you could just get rid of all that debt, there wouldn’t be such a great need for more and more credit. Perhaps it’s time to call someone to explore the fresh start that bankruptcy offers.

Top 7 Myths About Bankruptcy: Myth No. 2 – I Will Lose my House and my Car

Doghouse foreclosed

By Dave Kelly, Minnesota Bankruptcy Attorney


This is the second post in my series about what I consider to be the top seven bankruptcy myths. When a potential client calls me for the first time one of the most common questions I hear is “I’ll lose my house if I file bankruptcy won’t I?” OR “I’ll have to give up my car if I file bankruptcy, right?” The answer to both of these questions is almost always NO, but sometimes I have a hard time convincing the caller. This myth seems to be a very powerful one that many people have been hearing all their lives.

The Debt is Discharged but Not the Lien

In the vast majority of cases my clients get to keep their house, if they have one, and keep their car – unless for some reason they don’t want to keep these things. Please understand that bankruptcy makes the debt go away but in general it does not release the lien of a mortgage or car loan. If there is a mortgage on your house, the house will still have the mortgage when you are done with the bankruptcy. And if there is a loan against your car, properly filed with the state so that is is listed on the car title, the lien from that loan will also still be there after the bankruptcy. Unless the debt is reaffirmed, you will no longer owe personally on the car loan and mortgage. But it is very much like the car still owes the car loan and the house still owes the mortgage.

Protect Your Equity by Claiming it as Exempt

Now if there is equity in the car or house, and there usually is, that equity is an asset in the bankruptcy case. By equity I mean the difference between what is owed and what the asset is worth, assuming it is a positive number. When a straight Chapter 7 bankruptcy is filed, a trustee is appointed by the court. The trustee’s job is to find assets that can be seized and divided among the creditors. My job, however, is to prevent that from happening. With houses and cars it is usually fairly easy. The way to keep the trustee from taking an asset is to claim it as exempt. There is usually enough exemption to cover the equity in a car; and there is almost always enough Minnesota exemption to cover the equity in a house.

In Minnesota we get to choose between two exemption lists – either the state exemptions or the federal exemptions. Under the state exemptions a debtor is allowed an exemption of up to $480,000 of equity in a homestead and up to $5,200 or equity in a motor vehicle. The federal exemptions are not so good for protecting a homestead, but for a car they protect up to $4,450 of equity in a motor vehicle. The federal exemptions also contain a wile card of more than $15,000, under which anything not otherwise exempt can still be claimed as exempt. If there’s a lot of equity in a car, the wild card can be very handy to protect whatever is not covered by the automobile exemption.

Bottom Line

In the vast majority of cases, Minnesota residents who file bankruptcy are able to keep their vehicles and keep their homes. Those who tell you otherwise are perpetuating a common myth.

I’ve Moved to 10520 Wayzata Blvd.

New office location

After working more than ten years at 11900 Wayzata Blvd., I have had no choice but to move my office. The new location is 10520 Wayzata Blvd. Suite 100, exactly a mile east of the old location. Moving day was October 17, 2023, but it has taken me a while to get settled in the new location and to update the address on my web site.

I say I had no choice because the 11900 building was being sold and is about to be town down. Apparently the new owners will be putting up a big apartment building. It seems a terrible shame to me. The old place was a quaint and comfortable place. I had a beautiful view of a pond where there was lots of wild life. Now here at the new place I have a view of a parking lot, a bill board and the I-394 freeway.

I have downsized and crammed my stuff into a space which is perhaps a third of what I had before. On the other hand, the new place has a massive waiting area, a play area for kids, a big conference room and a lunch room. I had none of those things at the old place. I’m getting used to it and starting to like it here.

Here’s some views of the outside and inside of the new place.

Top 7 Myths About Bankruptcy: Myth No. 1 – Everyone Will Find Out That I Filed Bankruptcy

Gossip about your bankruptcy is very unlikely.

By Dave Kelly, Minnesota Bankruptcy Attorney

This is the first in a series about what I consider to be the top seven bankruptcy myths. There are lots of rumors and misconceptions out there. I keep hearing the same ones over and over. One common idea – which is almost never true – is that everyone in your life is going to find out you filed bankruptcy.

Personal Bankruptcies Are No Longer Published in The Newspaper

Many of my clients have one or more side hustles such as selling tupperware or driving for door dash. If they happen to have set up an LLC, a small corporation or even just registered a trade name, then we often have to include the trade name in the heading of the bankruptcy case. In the eyes of the StarTribune, that used to make it a business bankruptcy. They used to publish a list of business bankruptcies – if the case was filed in Minneapolis or St. Paul – in their Monday business section. There was hardly anybody who ever looked at that anyway, but they appear to have stopped doing that in 2021. When I search the StarTribune web site for bankruptcy listings like that, I don’t see any after June of 2021.

Regular run-of-the-mill consumer bankruptcies never were published anywhere as far as I know; one exception was that cases for people living in the Mankato area used to be published in the Mankato Free Press. I have searched the Mankato Free Press web site, and what I see is that they seem to have stopped publishing bankruptcies years ago. That kind of stuff makes for very boring reading and takes up valuable space.

Bankruptcy Filings Are Public – But Not Easy to Find

It is true that bankruptcy filings are public information. But to access the filings in the bankruptcy court you need to have a Pacer account. Pacer is a lot like Paypal and is used to pay the per page fee to look at filings in federal courts. You have to really want and need to have access to those court filings to go so far as to set up an account like that, and few people do it. This means that very few people and very few entities actually have access to the filings.

There is a list of people or companies that are required to be notified of your bankruptcy filing. All the creditors have to be notified. Your landlord will be notified. So will any co-debtors. The landlords usually don’t care as long as you keep paying your rent. Your employer will not be notified unless the employer is also a creditor. Your credit report will show the bankruptcy filing – but that is protected by various privacy laws and is not available to the public.

Friends, Neighbors and Relatives Usually Will Never Know

Outside of those on the official notification list, it would be unusual for anybody to find out unless you tell them. The idea that all your friends, neighbors and relatives will know you filed bankruptcy is one of the most common myths.

Please subscribe to my channel. Better Call Dave. 952-544-6356

Big Bump in Median Incomes April 2023

Increasing median incomes

By Dave Kelly, Minnesota Bankruptcy Attorney

Qualifying for a Straight Bankruptcy

The most common type of bankruptcy is Chapter 7. It also tends to be the most desirable form of bankruptcy. Often it is referred to as “straight bankruptcy.” It is the type of bankruptcy where usually you can get rid of all your unsecured debt in just a few months with minimal cost. There is typically no payment plan, just relief from your debt.

The best way to qualify for a Chapter 7 is to have annual income below the median for your household size in your state. If your income is a bit higher than that, you might still be able to qualify by passing a means test; but the means test is not all that easy. I would prefer to have your income below the median if we are going to do a Chapter 7. If it is much above the median, I would probably suggest a Chapter 13.

Meidan Income – A Moving Target

The US Trustee’s office has just announced the biggest increase in Minnesota median incomes for bankruptcy purposes that I can remember seeing. I calculate that the increases are around 8% for all the household sizes between one and four. Since these increases are supposedly based on a six month period, they seem to be thinking that median incomes in Minnesota have been increasing by 16% on an annual basis. I find that hard to believe, but I won’t complain.

Most years the median income numbers are adjusted on April 1st and again on November 1st. Sometimes they all go up, sometimes they all go down, sometimes the ups and downs are mixed, and sometimes they don’t change at all. Every state is different and is assigned their own set of numbers.

Latest Numbers for Minnesota

Here’s the exact Minnesota numbers as of the recent update copied from my Chapter 7 page:

One person: $  71,643

Two people: $  90,946

Three people: $ 114,267

Four people: $ 141,324

Add $9,900 for each individual in excess of4

For a household of one the increase is $5,309 per year. For a household of two it’s a $6,739 per year increase. It’s $8,467 for a household of three, and $$10, 472 for a household of four. If you thought you didn’t qualify for a Chapter 7 before, take another look. These numbers could make a big difference.

Call or text me at 952-544-6356. We can set up a time for a free telephone consultation to talk over the details of your case.

Hearings Never Going Back to the Way They Were

Lawyer wingtip shoes

By Dave Kelly, Minnesota Bankruptcy Lawyer

What Happens at the Meeting of Creditor Hearing

About a month after a personal bankruptcy is filed, whether it’s a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13, there is a hearing they call the “First Meeting of Creditors.” Most of the time I just call it the “hearing”, although the official name is “First Meeting of Creditors.” I think “hearing” is a more accurate term because for one thing, in the vast majority of cases, the last thing you will ever see at one of these events is a creditor. The creditors are invited to appear, but they know it’s a waste of their time and almost never show up.

“Hearing” is also a good way to describe what happens. The process is presided over by either the bankruptcy Trustee or a lawyer on the staff of the bankruptcy Trustee. This Trustee is not a judge, but from my perspective he or she might was well be. Nobody has more power or influence over how the case goes than the Trustee. The person who filed the bankruptcy is put under oath and asked a series of questions. Depending on the answers, things can expand into even more questions. In a simple case it might only take ten minutes. But I have seen complicated cases where it has taken over an hour; and in those more complicated cases it can easily take more than one sitting.

Traditionally these hearings/Meetings of Creditors always took place at a federal courthouse or some other location like a federal courthouse, depending on the county in which the Debtor lived. I would put on my traditional lawyer outfit, including my lawyer shoes, and head for the designated location. I had it down to a science. I knew where I wanted to park and where I wanted to meet my clients before the hearing. It was usually kind of fun, because I would see my lawyer friends there. This was the norm. It was how things were done.

Covid Hit and Everything Changed

In early 2020 when Covid hit the whole process changed dramatically. The Trustees started conducting these hearings remotely by Zoom or some similar method. Everyone assumed this change was temporary and we’d be back to the courthouses when the virus passed. It never occurred to any of us that the change might become permanent. There may have been jokes about it becoming permanent, but nobody considered it a serious possibility – at first.

But I did start noticing that not going downtown saved time, and grief and parking money. People including the Trustees started to like doing it remotely, so did I. Many of my clients said they didn’t want to go downtown and expressed relief that we were not going to have to. My clients could stay home if they wanted to and do the hearing from there; but it has always been my preference to have them come to my office for the hearing. Even if we are not going down to a courthouse, I still think there is a tremendous benefit to being physically present in the same room with my clients when this hearing takes place. As I have always done, I like to meet early before the hearing with my clients and do preparation. I almost always know approximately what the Trustee will be asking. I want to go over the expected questions with my client and have my client as ready as possible.

When Are We Going Back to In-Person? Never!

Late last year as I usually do I attended the Bankruptcy Institute, a big series of classes and talks put on by Minnesota Continuing Legal Education. I was assuming that one of the things I would learn would be what the plans were for returning to in-person hearings for the Meetings of Creditors. In-person hearings were already taking place before the judges for the more complicated matters such as motions, adversary proceedings and reaffirmation agreements. Instead what I heard was that the switch to remote for the Meetings of Creditors was going to be made permanent. A nationwide protocol for doing it by Zoom on a permanent basis was going to be promulgated some time in 2023.

My Lawyer Shoes Continue to Gather Dust

Usually I manage to avoid those in-person hearings in front of the judges. Those tend to only be required if something has gone wrong with the case. If the case is put together well, we should be able to stay away from the judges. So these days I am only dressing like a lawyer from the waist up. It may be a long time if ever that I again have to wear the pants that come with my suit. The same goes for my lawyer wingtip shoes, which have been gathering dust in the corner of my bedroom. Maybe I’ll just have to wear the pants and the shoes some time for the heck of it.

Call Dave at 952-544-6356

Eight Deleted Five Star Google Reviews

8th missing review

By Dave Kelly, Minnesota Bankruptcy Attorney

Now What? My Reviews are Disappearing!

After going for a couple of years without any of my Google reviews disappearing, I noticed that some were being removed starting November 15, 2022. As soon as I saw that a purge was in progress, I attempted to create a printout of all my reviews so I would have a record of what was disappearing. After the smoke settled, I went to review the printout. To my disappointment I saw that I had only captured the first couple lines of each review. Except for one, which I had already reproduced in full on my reviews page, the full text of the missing reviews was irretrievably gone. In total since November 15th I have lost nine reviews. What follows is a summary of the opening lines from eight of those reviews which I regret, except for one, is all I managed to preserve:

  1. “Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with my review because there were so many incredible things about my experience with david Kelly. He came into my life during an extremely stressful time and managed to make me feel 90% better….”
  2. “I definitely recommend anyone going through bankruptcy to go with Dave Kelly as their lawyer. He was professional in answering our questions and gave us a straightforward and thorough overview of the bankrupty process. ..”
  3. I cannot express how satisfied and appreciative I am with the work of Dave. I started my online search for a great attorney and that is what I found. Dave’s website and YouTube videos were extremely helpful and very thorough. I have to say …..”
  4. “David is a fantastic attorney. I had previously spoke with one of the larger firms in the area and did not like the way they moved the cases through very quickly and did not seem very personal to talk with. I felt like the larger firm only ….”
  5. “Dave worked on my Chapter 13 bankruptcy with me. Filing for bankruptcy was one of the least comfortable things I’ve ever had to do. Bankruptcy was not something I came to lightly, I tried everything I could think of on my own before I …..”
  6. “I was very lucky to get a lawyer that was Professional as well as someone who really cared about helping me out. I don’t believe that anyone wants to get a bankruptcy ever. It a little embarrassing, even in bad times that you can’t pay your ….”
  7. “He was very professional and understanding of my situation. He was never pushy and always communicated very well. He never made me feel stupid or ashamed for filing and also made it very welcoming and comfortable. I’d highly recommend David to anyone who is considering filing. You won’t be disappointed.”
  8. “David has the experience and decades of knowledge and proven results that got me through the process (with ease) of my chapter 7 bankruptcy.”

Quirky Standards and Requirements

Over the years I have lost well over 100 reviews which disappeared into Google’s bit bucket. Sadly they had all given me five stars. They can’t be retrieved. They are gone forever. Google seems to have very strict standards as to what reviews it allows to be posted. Some reviews are only there for a day or two before Google deletes them forever. Others can stay up for several months or even a couple of years before they disappear.

A couple of clients have given me five stars and posted simply “Thank you Dave.” Google didn’t like that and instantly removed their reviews, almost before I had a chance to notice. Another client kept having his review removed because he could not refrain from putting in too many superlatives about how great he thought I was. Webster defines “superlative” as an “exaggerated expression especially of praise.” What Google seems to be looking for in a review is a simple, toned down statement of what your experience was.

Most Common Reason Reviews Disappear

The reasons a Google review may disappear are certainly many. But the single most common reason seems to be lack of activity on the reviewer’s Google account. If you set up a Google account, use it to post a review, and then use that account for nothing else ever, the folks at Google will delete the account for inactivity after a year or two. Once the account is deleted, the reviews posted with that account are gone as well.

Only Speculation

I can only speculate as to why the reviews are gone. My comments about superlatives and everything else above is just a guess. I’ve been complaining to Google. All I get is an automated response that doesn’t really tell me anything. Words like heartless and cruel come to mind. All I can say is that it s painful to see this happening. These were people who I knew and cases I cared about.

November 1st Median Income Surprises

I just received word that the US Trustee’s office has again released new median income numbers for Minnesota.  If you want to file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, it is best if your household income is below these medians for your household size.  

​The new number for a household of one is $66,334 per year.  For a household of two it’s $84,207; for a household of three $105,800; and for a household of four is up to $130,852.

The numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  The figures have increased for a household of one and for a household of four, but have gone down for households of two and three. The increase for a household of one was about $800 per year, and for a household of four it was about $5,000 per year.  But for a household of two it has gone down by $645 and for a household of three it’s down by $2,151. Certainly it’s a mixed bag this time. If you thought you might not be eligible for Chapter 7, look again. The history here seems to be that every time they do an update, the numbers go up at least a little bit; although that was not the case in all categories this time.. 

​People who were not eligible before for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy might be eligible now.  I do free telephone consultations.  952-544-6356.  Wouldn’t hurt to check with me to see if you qualify.

Children’s Bank Accounts At Risk in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Kid's savings accounts

By Dave Kelly, Minnesota Bankruptcy Lawyer

Recently a potential client made a hasty exit from my office after I explained that the accounts that had been set up for the children could be at risk in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. What kind of account you set up for your children, how much you put in it and when can all make a big difference. I feel a blog post on this subject coming on. At least one post, maybe two. If you have bank accounts for your children, be sure you tell your lawyer about them.

Please note that in this article I am talking only about Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a whole other topic. Some of the problems described here could be more easily resolved in a Chapter 13.

529 College Savings Accounts

A 529 savings account may be the safest way to save money for your children’s college. Much like a 401K, the money you put in should be tax deductible. Such accounts are not always protected when you file bankruptcy. You have to look at how much you deposited and how long ago that was.

Any amount deposited more than two years before filing the bankruptcy should be protected. Funds that were deposited between two years and one year before the filing date are protected up to $6,425. Any more than that belongs to the bankruptcy estate and probably will be claimed by the bankruptcy trustee. AND any amount deposited within one year before filing the bankruptcy is not protected at all. Again, that amount will be claimed by the bankruptcy trustee.

Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) Accounts

These are accounts set up under state law. The account is in the child’s name and is held under the child’s social security number. In your bankruptcy papers it would typically be listed under property held for another. The law requires, however, that an adult be named as the custodian of the account. The adult will manage the account until the child turns 18, then the money can be claimed by the child. How safe or unsafe the money in one of these accounts is depends on when the money was put in and by whom.

As a general rule, if the money in the account came from Grandma or some other third party, it should be safe. Because it never was your money. It would be best if you had records that can prove it never was your money. If you put the money in and now you want to file a bankruptcy, there could be a problem. Minnesota has a fraudulent conveyance statute that has a six year look back period. If that was money that you could have used to pay your debts but you put it in the child’s account instead, the bankruptcy trustee might be able to claw it back out of that account.

Joint Savings Account with Your Child

Of the accounts I am talking about here, this could be the most difficult kind. Your name is on the account along with the child, so how do your prove it’s not yours. For one thing it has to be listed in the bankruptcy petition along with all the other accounts your name is on. If the money did come from you, there is the same “fraudulent conveyance” problem I mentioned above. If the money came from a third party, however, like Grandma, I hope you have good records to prove that. Minnesota does have a statute that says money in a joint account belongs to the person who deposited it. If the money never was yours and you can prove it, the account is probably safe. It would help if the amount is relatively small. The larger the balance, the more likely it is that the trustee would try to make an attempt to grab it.

What if the Money in the Account is from Social Security?

Some children receive a Social Security benefit because their parent has died or or disabled. This money, however, is supposed to be available to the child’s custodian to pay for the child’s living expenses. Social Security money is generally exempt and can’t be touched. But it better be in an account where you can prove that’s what it is. Assuming you are the child’s custodian, it would be best if you were using at least some of it for the child’s expenses. If you just bank the whole thing and never touch any of it, you could appear to not be making your best efforts to avoid bankruptcy. The trustee might not be able to touch the money, but I fear the trustee could object that the case is not being filed in good faith. No such objection has ever happened in any case of mine, but I can’t promise it would never happen if the facts were lined up as I just described.


I have had many cases involving children’s savings accounts fly through with no problem. But as you can see, there are a lot of ifs, buts and maybes concerning these accounts. Don’t assume you know what to do or how to handle these. You need to have the accounts reviewed by an experienced lawyer well in advance of any bankruptcy filing.

Better call Dave. 952-544-6356.

Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Deadline – October 31st

By Dave Kelly, Minnesota Bankruptcy Lawyer

Student loans are very hard to get rid of in bankruptcy, but there are all sorts of other programs that might help. One of these is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Apparently the public service student loan debt forgiveness program was expanded about a year ago in many respects. One is that almost any employment for a government agency counts toward the program. This includes military service and employment for any state, federal or local government entity. This includes teachers at public schools. You can find all the details of the changes here at the Department of Education web site.

This morning I received an email from the Veteran’s administration about the deadline to apply for the program. A detailed article on the Veteran Administration web site lays out a lot more good detail and is easier to read than the page from the Department of Education. In the VA article it appears that there are links to information on where and how to do an application. The deadline to apply is coming up on October 31st of this year. Only a few weeks are left. If you have student loans and are a veteran or a government employee or a teacher, you might want to check this out.

I am certainly not an expert concerning student loans, but this looks important to me. I thought I would do what I could to spread the word. Good luck.

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