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.
This is the second in a series of seven blog posts about my top seven things that you should do if you are preparing to file a bankruptcy. This also applies even if you are just considering filing a bankruptcy – either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. What I want to talk about it getting your credit reports. I wouldn’t dare want to file somebody’s bankruptcy without reviewing at least one credit report. There are three major reporting agencies which each produce their own reports – Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. Usually all three reports are about the same, but not always.
Easiest way: Authorize Your Lawyer Get Your Credit Reports
While you can get your reports on your own, your best choice is to have your lawyer get them for you. For $37 per person I can get a report that pulls information from all three credit reporting bureaus. We will have to provide your email address and social security number. After that we will have to answer three questions to which only you would have the answers. Then I can download your comprehensive credit report info directly into my bankruptcy software. And I will print a copy of the report for you. As a bonus it provides your credit score along with a prediction of what filing bankruptcy will do to your credit score. Somewhat surprisingly, the prediction is usually for an improvement in the score.
The Hard Way: Get the Reports Yourself
If you want to get the reports on your own, the best place to go and the only place I recommend is https://annualcreditreport.com. There is a federal law that requires the three major reporting agencies to make a report available to each individual once a year. This site was created by the agencies to satisfy this requirement. Unlike the other resources I am aware of, this web site is really free. All the other sites will want you to subscribe or sign up for something. The one exception at annualcreditreport.com is if you ask for your credit score. Don’t do that. It looks like they want to get something in exchange for that, and I don’t need the credit score. I just want to know who the creditors are.
It helps me if you can download each report as a pdf document and then print it on paper as well. If you don’t have a printer, send me the pdf and I’ll print it. There is often a problem in printing these reports where the printer cuts off the top, bottom or side of the pages. If that happens the report is often missing so much that it is not useable. Problems like this can be avoided of course if you just have me get the reports instead.
The Bankruptcy Must List All Your Debts
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that we list all your debts. Failure to list a debt could result in that debt not being discharged. Unlisted debts aren’t discharged in Chapter 7 cases where there are assets for the creditors. Unlisted debts are also not discharged in Chapter 13 cases. In those situations the creditor could have filed a claim and gotten their share of the payments or assets. But they can’t file a claim if they are never notified. So the discharge doesn’t apply to them.
Creditors can be added for a while after the case is filed, but it is obviously much better to get them all listed to begin with.
Sometimes certain debts don’t show on your credit reports. An example of this is medical bills. The medical people have a confidentiality requirement and don’t want to just tell the world that you owe them money. Typically medical bills don’t show up on credit reports unless they have been sent to a collection agency. In order to report to a credit bureau, the creditor has to have a membership in that bureau. Many small businesses do not have or can’t afford to have that, and debts owing to those businesses won’t be on the reports either. Please keep in mind that even if the debt doesn’t show on the reports, it is still your responsibility to make sure all your debts are listed in the case. You have to give this info to your lawyer. Your lawyer isn’t a psychic.
This post is for general information purposes and is not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. Small details in your case can make a big difference. Consult the attorney of your choice concerning the details of your case. I practice in Minnesota. Laws and practices may be a lot different in your state.
Call Dave – It’s Free
Call Dave for a free telephone consultation. 962-544-6356.
This is the first in a series of seven posts about my top seven things that you should do if you are considering bankruptcy or preparing to file – either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
Item 1 on my list is that you should gather the financial records that your attorney will need to process your case. These will include payroll check stubs, bank statements, mortgage records, and tax returns. You should also be gathering together your monthly statements for all your debts. Include any nasty letters you may be receiving from lawyers or collection agencies. Don’t just gather the records you have, but also start keeping records of all your financial transactions. Keep track of your expenses. Keep all your receipts. If there is legal action against you, keep all the paperwork from that. There is a human tendency to want to throw away paperwork that contains bad news. Don’t do it. Keep it and give it to your lawyer.
Your attorney will want to see at least six months of income information. Typically this would be pay stubs from any employment you have had during the most recent six months. He or she will also need to know about unemployment benefits, disability benefits, social security benefits, retirement income and any other income source for that six months. If you are self employed or operating a small business, create a cash in – cash out statement. This is a listing of funds received and business expenses paid over that the most recent six months. I prefer to it broken down by month. For a self employed person, “income” usually will be the difference between the cash in and the cash out.
The trustee in your bankruptcy case will always ask to see at least 30 days of bank statements. Maybe they will ask to see as many as six months of bank statements. This would be a printout or statements for any bank accounts you may have. It always has to include the balance on the day the case is filed. If there are red flags in your bank statements, you want your lawyer to see them before somebody else does. Most of the time I start by asking to see my client’s most recent bank statement. Then I may ask for more depending on what I see.
Keep Your Receipts
If you do a lot of your financial business with cash, it is best to keep very careful records of what you are doing with the cash. Keep your receipts. Keep records for everything you do. You might or might not be asked to produce the receipts, but you should have them ready in case the trustee wants to see them.
The bankruptcy trustee will require that you produce your most recent state and federal tax returns. I will want to see at least the last two years of your tax returns. There are income questions on the bankruptcy petition that go back two years. The best place for me to get your income information is from the tax returns. If you have unfiled tax returns, I will ask that you get your tax filing up to date before we file the bankruptcy. We have to list all your assets and all your debts. If you owe taxes that’s obviously a debt, and if you have a refund coming that’s an asset. Either way I need to know what that is.
Bills, Nasty Letters and Legal Actions
Even if we eventually get a credit report, there are many things that do not show on those reports. Or the reports might be wrong. So I want to see the statements and letters you have been receiving from your creditors. If there is a lawsuit or a threat of one, I want to see all the paperwork you have about that as well.
Documentation of Assets
If you own your home, find your deed from when you bought the place. Best too if you find a copy of the mortgage you signed at that time. If you have refinanced, find the papers about that too. Usually you get a big folder of stuff when you buy a house or refinance. Just bring that folder to your lawyer and he or she will pick out the needed documents. If you own a car, trailer, camper, or motorcycle, find the title certificates. If you have a boat or an ATV that is registered with the state, find your registration card or papers – your lawyer will need them.
Maintain ongoing records
Finally keep in mind that preparing a bankruptcy is an ongoing process. You are never realy done gathering records. As your attorney works with you to prepare the case, which could take several weeks, continue to keep records. When anything new turns up, be sure you give it to your lawyer.
I am a debt relief agency. I help people file for relief under the federal bankruptcy code. This pose is for general information purposes only and is not legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship.
Call Dave – It’s Free
Call Dave for a free telephone consultation. 962-544-6356.