Craig W. Andresen is a consumer bankruptcy lawyer in Bloomington, Minnesota, with 22 years’ experience in consumer and small business bankruptcy cases. He is the Minnesota chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Section. Mr. Andresen lectures often on the topic of consumer bankruptcy at local and national legal seminars.

 

Author: Craig Andresen, Minneapolis, MN, Bankruptcy Attorney

10 Nov Exemptions: What They Are, And Why They Matter

When you file bankruptcy under chapter 7 or 13, you also file a list of property you are claiming is "exempt" (this important piece of paper is called Schedule C). When property you own is exempt, that means you get to keep it, even though you've filed bankruptcy. To say it another way, when property you own is not exempt, you lose it to the trustee of your chapter 7 case, who then sells it and pays the money to your unsecured creditors. In a chapter 13, instead of losing the item, the non-exempt value increases the amount of your monthly plan payment. This means you need to know what property you own is exempt before you actually file a bankruptcy case. "Property" you own means all property, not just real estate, which you own on the date of filing the bankruptcy. This term includes real estate, motor vehicles, furniture, jewelry, money, bank accounts, IRA accounts, pensions and 401(k) accounts, debts owed to you, lawsuits you could file against someone, inheritances you are actually waiting for now because someone has already died, patents, copyrights, shares of stock, fishing tackle, bicycles, and just about anything else that you own somehow, in some way, tangible or intangible. How can we determine if it's exempt?
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06 Nov Credit Counseling: You Can Do It Without Leaving Home!

If you are considering bankruptcy, you have probably discovered that before you can file the case, you have to take a U.S. Trustee-approved credit counseling class (also called a "briefing"). This does not sound like a good time, and the last thing you need right now is a time-wasting, make-work project consisting of Lord knows what, and who will watch the kids while you are there taking the "class"? Before you throw your hands up in frustration, there's good news: you don't even have to leave your home to do it! That's right, you can get your credit counseling certificate in about one hour, without going anywhere except to your telephone or computer. In fact, it is preferred by most lawyers that you do it this way. This means that the pre-bankruptcy credit counseling requirement is no big deal, and you can have it finished before you go to bed tonight. To comply with the credit counseling rule, simply ask your lawyer for a list of phone numbers of credit counseling agencies supplied by the U.S. Trustee's office. Don't find one yourself; the agency you choose must be approved by the U.S. Trustee for this special purpose. Call the agency on the phone, debit card in hand, because you will be charged about $50 to $75 for this "service." Get your spouse on the phone with you if you are filing bankruptcy together, as most married couples do, and you can kill two birds with one stone.
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01 Nov Why is There Bankruptcy?

If you are thinking about filing a bankruptcy case, you might have also been pondering about just why there even is a bankruptcy process. Shouldn't people just pay their debts? Why should Congress enact a law that allows you to avoid paying a debt? This just seems too easy. After all, you may have a lot of valid, legally enforceable debts, and it just doesn't seem right that a court would wipe them out for you. There must be a catch.
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30 Oct The Case of the Disappearing Lawyers: How Congress Got Rid of Some Really Good Bankruptcy Attorneys

Let's say you're in a cabal of evil banking interests, and you're cooking up ways to put the screws to bankruptcy debtors. You hire expensive lobbyists; you pour money into the right campaign coffers; you draft some Scrooge-like legislation; you give it a wonderful name; and lo! Congress gives birth to the miscreant law known as the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005. This law contained a cynical provision requiring consumer bankruptcy lawyers to identify themselves as "Debt Relief Agencies." Masquerading as consumer protection, the real intent of this rule was to prevent lawyers from big law firms from continuing to represent consumers in bankruptcy cases. Prior to 2005, some of the best and brightest consumer bankruptcy attorneys were employed by large law firms. Although the overwhelming majority of consumer bankruptcy lawyers are sole practitioners or small firm lawyers, it was always true that "tall building" law firms had some excellent attorneys who helped shape the law. This was especially true at the appeals-court level. However, this has changed since 2005. Now, there are virtually no large law firm attorneys who can do consumer bankruptcies. Why? Because their law partners will no longer let them!
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30 Oct Minnesota Homestead Exemption: Increased to $300,000 and 160 Acres, or $750,000 for Farmers

In many states, you can choose between the federal bankruptcy law exemptions and your state exemptions, whichever protects your property the best. The federal bankruptcy exemptions provide for an exemption of $20,200 for your home equity, which usually means $40,400 for a joint case. That's not a very generous exemption. However, Minnesota allows debtors to choose either federal or state exemptions, and the state exemption just got bigger. Effective August 1, 2007, the Minnesota homestead exemption increased from $200,000 to $300,000; the area limit increased from 1/4 acre to 160 acres for all debtors. Under the old law, city dwellers were subject to the 1/4 acre cap. Now, all debtors can claim 160 acres no matter where their property is located. Rural farm property continues to enjoy a bigger dollar limit, though; the exemption for such property is $750,000 rather than the $300,000 applicable to all other homestead property.
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18 Oct Sole Proprietor “Business” Chapter 13 Cases: Yes, You Can Do It!

If you have a small business which is a sole proprietorship, you can file a chapter 13 case, usually with no more difficulty than a non-business case. All you need is an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, preferably one who has done business chapter 13 cases before. It isn't true that sole proprietors must do a chapter 11 or 12 instead (way too expensive!); it isn't true that sole proprietors must do a chapter 7 only; it isn't true that you must give up your business; in fact, chapter 13 is ideal for small business people who desire to keep their businesses going, and who can make a monthly payment toward their debts, and who need a discharge of debts at the end of the case, even though their debts have not been paid in full.
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