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I am often asked to explain the difference between a Will and an estate plan. The short answer is that a Will determines what happens to your property after you die, and can be an important part of an estate plan. An estate plan, by contrast, includes a Will, and also a healthcare advance directive and a power of attorney, and may include a trust as well. The healthcare advance directive and power of attorney both give somebody else the authority to make health care or financial decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated.

I generally recommend that all persons have a Will, a healthcare advance directive (sometimes called a "living will"), and a power of attorney. A trust is sometimes appropriate as well, and a trust can be an important part of estate planning. If you own a small business, you may need to consider business succession planning issues as well, to pass the business onto the next generation.

A Will is a very powerful document that allows you to name a personal representative, a guardian for your children, and indicate what you would like to have happen with your property after you die. In addition to planning for what happens to your property after your death, I think that it is also important to appoint someone through a power of attorney and healthcare advance directive to make health care – related decisions for you and manage your financial affairs in the event that you become incapacitated.

The best way to determine what is right for you is to meet with an estate planning attorney. To that end, I invite you to give me a call at 763-450-9494 to discuss your specific situation. Everybody who calls gets a free 5 minute mini telephone consultation. An in person meeting is $250, and that amount is credited to your account when you retained me to represent you in drafting your Will, healthcare advance directive, power of attorney, and other estate planning documents.

WARNING: The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Tim is licensed to practice law only in the state and federal courts of Minnesota, and the advice that he gives is applicable to that jurisdiction only. Further, reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.


 
 
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I am often asked when is the right time for a person or business to file for bankruptcy protection. The short answer is that you should file as soon as possible, and unless there is a good reason for not doing so.

For example, you might want to wait for a period of time if you have recently paid a large amount of money to a creditor or made a major purchase not in the ordinary course.  If you do not wait, the bankruptcy trustee can undo that payment or transaction and take the money back.  However, if you can qualify to file bankruptcy now, and there is not a good reason for waiting, then I would generally recommend filing for bankruptcy sooner rather than later.

Individual persons can file for either chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Individuals who make their living from farming or fishing have a few different options as well. Small businesses are limited to filing for Chapter 7, although businesses can also file for chapter 11 – but chapter 11 is far beyond the scope of this blog post.  Personally, I like chapter 7 better because it wipes all of your debts out at once and is a lot faster than chapter 13. However, your net income (your gross income after payroll deductions and expenses) has to be below a certain level for your family size in order for you to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

I prefer to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on behalf of the debtor, unless there is a good reason for choosing chapter 13 bankruptcy. A good reason for choosing chapter 13 would be if the debtor makes too much money to qualify for Chapter 7, or if the debtor has a lot of equity in a house.  Your bankruptcy attorney will be able to explain to you the differences between chapter 7 and Chapter 13, and which one is a better option for you.

Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. represents consumer and small business debtors in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings. Please note that only individual debtors can file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy relief, not businesses.  Please call (763) 450-9494 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation today and find out whether declaring bankruptcy is the right option for you!

DISCLAIMER: Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. is a debt-relief agency, and Timothy H. Baland, Esq. is a debt-relief agent.  We help people like you to obtain bankruptcy relief.

WARNING: The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.



 
 
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I am often asked whether a debtor can keep personal property – such as a bicycle, television, etc. – when that person files for bankruptcy. The short answer is that there are 3 ways for a debtor to keep such personal property.

Normally, when a person (called the debtor) files for bankruptcy, property owned by that person becomes the property of the bankruptcy trustee. As a bankruptcy attorney, my goal in my job is to find as many ways as possible to keep the debtor's personal property out of the hands of the bankruptcy trustee.

There are three primary ways to keep property out of the hands of the bankruptcy trustee. Each of those ways will now be discussed in turn.:

The first – and primary – way is if the property is exempt. The law provides that a certain amount of property is exempt and is automatically excluded from the property taken by the bankruptcy trustee. For example, there are exemptions for household goods and furnishings, motor vehicles (up to a certain value), jewelry, and many others.

Some states – in Minnesota is one of those states – permit debtors to choose between the exemptions provided by federal law and the exemptions provided by state law. Most of the time, the federal exemptions are the most appropriate. I especially like the wildcard exemption provided by federal law – that can cover any property, such as a lawn more, that would not normally be exempt.

The second way is for a debtor to reaffirm the debt. Reaffirm is a fancy word for continuing to make the payments. Most often, if a debtor is making monthly payments on a particular item of property, such as a motor vehicle, and the creditor – the person to whom the money is owed – could repossess the property unless the payments in such a case, the debtor might reaffirm the debt, or promise to continue to make the monthly payments in order to keep the property reaffirmation agreements are most common for motor vehicles, but sometimes exist for mortgages as well.

Most of the time, the exemptions, combined with reaffirmation agreements, cover all of the property that a debtor may own. However, if the trustee seizes an item of the debtor's property, the debtor can offer to buy that property back from the trustee. That is the third option, and it primarily comes up when the debtor is a small business with a large inventory or a lot of equipment.

Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. represents consumer and small business debtors in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings. Please note that only individual debtors can file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy relief, not businesses.  Please call (763) 450-9494 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation today and find out whether declaring bankruptcy is the right option for you!

DISCLAIMER: Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. is a debt-relief agency, and Timothy H. Baland, Esq. is a debt-relief agent.  We help people like you to obtain bankruptcy relief.

WARNING: The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.



 
 
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Tim is teaching a seminar called "Bankruptcy 101: Everything You Need to Know About Bankruptcy"  The seminar will be held on Friday 11/21/14 from noon - 1:00 p.m. at Tim's office, 2140-4th Avenue, Anoka MN 55303.

Space is limited, so advance registration is required.  For more information and to register, please visit:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bankruptcy-101-everything-you-need-to-know-about-bankruptcy-tickets-14175181349

Here is the official description:

This seminar covers the basics of bankruptcy for consumers and small business, including the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, exemptions and ways to keep non-exempt property, and what to expect at the Meeting of Creditors and other bankruptcy-related court hearings.  Intended for consumer and small business debtors, as well as attorneys who do not handle bankruptcy cases, this seminar will introduce you to bankruptcy.

ATTORNEYS: One standard CLE credit has been applied for.

WARNING: Tim is a debt-relief agent, and his office is a debt-relief agency.  Tim helps people like you to file for bankruptcy relief.

 
 
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Tim is teaching a seminar called "Bankruptcy 101: Everything You Need to Know About Bankruptcy"  The seminar will be held on Thursday 7/31/14 from noon - 1:00 p.m. at Tim's office, 2140-4th Avenue, Anoka MN 55303.

Space is limited, so advance registration is required.  For more information and to register, please visit:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bankruptcy-101-everything-you-need-to-know-about-bankruptcy-tickets-12194422847

Here is the official description:

This seminar covers the basics of bankruptcy for consumers and small business, including the differences between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, exemptions and ways to keep non-exempt property, and what to expect at the Meeting of Creditors and other bankruptcy-related court hearings.  Intended for consumer and small business debtors, as well as attorneys who do not handle bankruptcy cases, this seminar will introduce you to bankruptcy.

ATTORNEYS: This seminar has been approved for one standard CLE credit.  The event code is 193933.

WARNING: Tim is a debt-relief agent, and his office is a debt-relief agency.  Tim helps people like you to file for bankruptcy relief.


 
 
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If you're thinking about filing for bankruptcy, you're probably wondering if you can keep your house, car, or any other item that you are making payments on, such as a boat, ATV, computer, etc.  The short answer is yes, but you have to get caught up (if you are behind) and keep making your regular payments on time and when due.  If you are leasing (renting) property, you have to get caught up and keep making your payments.

What I just said -- that you have to get caught up if you are behind and keep making regular payments -- applies to both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.  This article applies mainly to Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and not Chapter 13.  To learn more about your options for bankruptcy, please read my previous blog posts on the subject.  Here is a link:    
http://www.balandlaw.com/3/category/bankruptcy/1.html.

When you file for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee (the person who is in charge of administering your bankruptcy) will take all of your property and sell it to pay your creditors, or the people you owe money to.  There are three basic ways to keep your property out of the hands of the bankruptcy trustee:

(1.) EXEMPT: Property that is exempt does not go to the bankruptcy trustee and does not become part of what is called your bankruptcy estate.  Your bankruptcy estate is all of the property that is not exempt and available to the bankruptcy trustee to pay your creditors.  The law provides that some property is automatically exempt,and does not become part of your bankruptcy estate.  You can decide whether to use the exemptions provided by federal law or state law.  For most people. federal exemptions are more appropriate, although there are good reasons to choose state exemptions.

Regardless of whether you choose the state or federal exemptions, you get to keep the clothes on your back, your "household goods and furnishings" (like your furniture, radio, television, etc.) up to a certain value, and a car (again up to a certain value).  These are only examples, and there are many more exemptions available.  For a full list, see 11 U.S.C. 522 and Minn. Stat. 550.37.

(2.) REAFFIRM: If you owe money and are making payments on a loan that is secured by an item of property, such as a car or house that the creditor (the person to whom you owe money), you can generally keep that property if it is exempt and you reaffirm the debt and agree to keep making your payments when they come due.  This happens most often when you are making payments on a car loan or mortgage, and want to keep the car or house.  So you reaffirm the debt, and promise to keep making payments on it in order to keep the property.

To reaffirm a debt, you sign a document called a Reaffirmation Agreement that is usually prepared by the creditor.  Every Reaffirmation Agreement must be approved by a judge, unless it involves real property.  Approval is not automatic, and a judge does not have to sign off on a Reaffirmation Agreement.

Sometimes, a judge does not approve a Reaffirmation Agreement, especially if you are trying to reaffirm a debt on something that is not practical, such as a boat, recreational vehicle, ATV (all-terrain vehicle).  Usually, if a Reaffirmation Agreement is not approved, the judge thinks it makes more sense for you to give up the property than keep it and keep making payments.  In such a case, I generally recommend contacting the creditor to see if the creditor will let you keep the property if you continue to make your payments.

(3.) BUY BACK: As a bankruptcy attorney, I try to find as many exemptions as possible to keep your property out of the hands of the bankruptcy trustee.  If, for whatever reason, a certain item of your property goes to the bankruptcy trustee, you can buy that property from the trustee and get the property back by paying the value of the property to the trustee.  For example, if you have a nonexempt item of personal property that goes to the trustee, you can pay the value of that property to the trustee to get the property back.

Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. represents consumer debtors and small businesses in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings.  Please call (763) 450-9494 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation today and find out whether declaring bankruptcy is the right option for you!

DISCLAIMER: Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. is a debt-relief agency, and Timothy H. Baland, Esq. is a debt-relief agent.  We help people like you to obtain bankruptcy relief.

WARNING: The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  This blog post may constitute attorney advertising.  Further, Tim is licensed only in Minnesota state and federal courts, and the information that is provided here is applicable only to those jurisdictions.  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.


 
 
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The short answer is yes, a small business can file for bankruptcy protection in the same way that a person can.  A small business can file either Chapter 7, Chapter 11, or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, depending on whether

(1.) the business is an incorporated legal entity (such as a corporation or limited liability company)

(2.) you want to continue operating the business after the bankruptcy

(3.) you are personally liable for corporate debts; and

(4.) the amount and nature of the business' debts.

Chapter 7 erases most debt right away, but ends the business.  In other words, the business ceases to exist as a legal entity, and all of its assets are sold and the proceeds distributed to creditors.  Chapter 13 is not available to incorporated entities, but may be available to sole proprietors and qualifying partnerships.  Chapter 13 puts you on a payment plan for a number of years.

With both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, the business has to stop operating when the bankruptcy is filed.  Filing Chapter 11 allows a business to continue operating and restructure debt, but is usually too cost-prohibitive, time-intensive, and uncertain to be a viable option for small business.  Because Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are more realistic options for small business, I'm not going to go into further detail about Chapter 11.   For more information on the different types of bankruptcy, please see my earlier article on bankruptcy in this blog.

Business owners sometimes sign personal guarantees for business debt.  This means that the business owner individually and personally promises to pay business debt in the event that the business does not.  In such a case, the owner may wish to consider filing for bankruptcy as well because, if the business gets rid of the debt by filing for bankruptcy, the creditor will try to collect payment from the business owner.

Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. represents business debtors and business owners in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings.  If I think Chapter 11 is a better option for you, I will refer you to an attorney who specializes in Chapter 11.  Please call (763) 450-9494 to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation today and find out whether declaring bankruptcy is the right option for you!

DISCLAIMER: Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C. is a debt-relief agency, and Timothy H. Baland, Esq. is a debt-relief agent.  We help people like you to obtain bankruptcy relief.

WARNING: The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and may not be applicable to your situation.  Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Baland Law Office, P.L.L.C.  Tim is licensed in Minnesota stat  You should always discuss your situation with an attorney before taking any action based on what you may read in this blog.  To that end, please call (763) 450-9494 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.