We’ve written a series of blog posts answering questions regarding the financial impact of bankruptcy and family issues. Call (262) 827-0375

I’m Married and I’m Broke. Should I File for Bankruptcy?

Joint or Separate BankruptcySummary: If you are married and considering bankruptcy, this guide will help you decide between a joint or separate filing.

Making the decision to file for bankruptcy can be both difficult and confusing. Each situation is unique; there is no standard solution for handling delicate financial matters like bankruptcy.

For married couples, the decision to file jointly or for one spouse to file separately depends on many factors. Here are some points to consider as you choose the best solution for yourself and your partner:


When Joint Filing is Your Best Option

Under certain circumstances, a married couple should file jointly. With a joint filing, the property of both spouses is included in the bankruptcy estate, and all debts of both spouses are part of the filing. Filing jointly also allows you to complete one set of forms, incur only one filing fee, and pay one lawyer, if applicable.

In the following situations, you may consider filing jointly:

  • Both you and your spouse are experiencing debt trouble.
  • Both you and your spouse reside in a community property state (Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin), and incurred most debts and acquired most property during your marriage. In these states, everything earned and all property bought during the marriage is community property, and all debts acquired during marriage are community debts. In this instance, joint filing allows both parties to release their separate debts and participate in decisions that will affect jointly held property.
  • The exemption laws of your state allow partners to double their exemptions. If this allows you to keep property you might otherwise lose, filing jointly may be a good option.

When You Should File Separately

In a separate filing, your share of the marital property and all separate property are part of the bankruptcy estate. If you or your spouse has substantial separate property to protect, you might consider filing separately.

You may consider a separate filing if:

  • One partner carries all or most of the debt, you don’t own any substantial property together and you married recently. In this instance, a separate filing will allow the partner who isn’t having debt trouble keep a good credit rating and maintain their separate property.
  • You and your spouse own property together as tenants by the entirety and, if one spouse files separately, your state excludes this property from the bankruptcy estate. In this case, filing separately may allow you to keep your home.

A separate filing may be unavoidable in certain situations. If one partner was discharged in a Chapter 7 case within the past eight years or a Chapter 13 case within six years, that spouse will not be able to file another Chapter 7 case. Additionally, if one spouse does not want to cooperate with a joint filing, you may also have to file separately.

In the complicated world of bankruptcy, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. It is always best to consult a qualified bankruptcy attorney who can examine your unique situation and explain your options. At Burr Law Office LLC, as expert Milwaukee bankruptcy attorneys, we can help you make the best decision. If you are married and considering bankruptcy, call us today at (262) 827-0375!

Important Factors in Making a Decision about Bankruptcy

For most people, the decision of whether or not to file for bankruptcy is not one to be taken lightly. After all, there are implications that go along with the decision. Today we’d like to take a look at a few things you should think about and discuss if you find yourself making the decision of whether to file for bankruptcy.

First of all, it’s important to reiterate that everyone’s situation is unique, and there are no “one-size-fits-all” approaches to handling financial matters. Similarly, not everyone is in the same place in life either, and all those factors need to be taken into account when making a big financial decision such as whether or not to file for bankruptcy. Because of the case-by-case nature of bankruptcy, it’s always best to consult a qualified bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options and to explain your specific situation. These attorneys are trained and are experienced and will be able to give you advice based on the information you have given them.

That being said, there are a few things most people can think about when deciding whether or not to file for bankruptcy – these are very common considerations which are likely to apply to many people, despite their different places in life and different situations.

First of all, if you do decide filing for bankruptcy is your best option, you’ll have to determine which type of personal bankruptcy to file. This decision is best made in consultation with your attorney, as each type makes sense in certain situations. Chapter 13 bankruptcy creates a repayment plan in which the filer uses a payment plan to pay off his or her debt in three to five years. This is often chosen if there was a temporary event that caused someone to get behind financially, such as a loss of a job, that has since been rectified. Chapter 13 allows you to keep your assets while requiring you to repay your missed payments via your payment plan.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy wipes away all debt, and this option is often chosen when debt is extremely high or when there is simply not enough income to come up with a payment plan. There are laws requiring being qualified for chapter 7, so this is not always an option for everyone.

Another thing to consider is whether you’ve had a major life event lately. Maybe, completely out of your control, a major medical event, divorce, or loss of a job might have increased your debt significantly or reduced your income significantly. A qualified attorney can help you evaluate your situation and help you decide what your options are.

There is then the matter of considering how bankruptcy will affect your credit. Typically, a bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for about ten years. But, depending on what your current financial situation is, a bankruptcy can actually help improve your credit score in as little as a year or two. If you’ve missed payments and have bill collectors or other agencies reporting your missed payments, getting on a chapter 13 payment plan together and starting to rectify the debts and missed payments can actually help you to boost your credit score. If, however, you have plans to buy a house in the next few years, or if you know you will need an auto loan or need to take out a line of credit, you may want to re-consider bankruptcy unless it is absolutely necessary. It might be very hard to make any of these things happen with a recent bankruptcy on your credit report.

If you have any joint accounts, another thing to consider is how bankruptcy will affect these. While bankruptcy will dissolve your financial obligations, if you have a spouse or someone else on a joint account, that co-signer will now become solely responsible for the debt. This is common after a divorce. One way to avoid this from happening is to pay off the debt before filing or by placing the debt into only one person’s name.

Finally, it is important to know that filing for bankruptcy is a matter of public record. Anyone who is interested can look into this information. Many times, people don’t realize this or bother to look; however, you should be aware that it will be a matter of public record and available for anyone who would want to look into it. Depending on your public profile, this piece of information might help you make your decision.

At Burr Law Office LLC, as expert Milwaukee bankruptcy attorneys, we want to help you make the right decision for your unique situation by taking all the factors into account. If you are considering bankruptcy as an option, talk to us and get the benefit of our expertise and experience. Call (262) 827-0375 today!

Bankruptcy, Credit, and Lessons for You and Your Children

If you’ve read this blog before or looked around our website, you won’t be surprised to hear me repeat what we’ve said about bankruptcy many times before. Bankruptcy is a legal tool to allows people to protect their future and keep financial issues from taking over their lives. While many people automatically associate negative thoughts with the word “bankruptcy,” it’s also worth looking at in a positive light as well. It does, after all, provide this important protection for so many people. Far worse would be a country with no bankruptcy law and no effective way to get out of lifetime indebtedness.

But in this post, let me suggest another “silver lining” regarding the bankruptcy process—the lessons you can learn and that you can teach your children about finances, borrowing, and debt. That’s right: Although going through financial hardship isn’t fun, it can lead to some important life lessons.

Have you ever heard it said about someone that, “he (or she) knows the value of a dollar?” It’s a common saying and usually refers to someone who has had to work hard for his or her money or someone who has a “rags to riches” story. The point of the saying is, whatever the case, they don’t take money for granted—they pay attention to their money.

There are many stories about people who have become wealthy only after they have first had a financial hardship. Financial hardships can transform the way people think about money and how carefully they pay attention to it. To be sure, financial difficulties can come from any number of situations and are not always relational to how vigilant one is with their finances; however, someone who has had to watch every penny might just value those extra pennies just a little more.

So whether you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy, already have, or are just finding out more about the process, let me suggest that there can be a lot of value in going through a difficult financial time. Let’s take a quick look at some of the financial experiences that many have gone through and how they have used those experiences as an opportunity to learn and to pass on wisdom to their children.

Borrowing

For many of us, we were perhaps never given a formal introduction to the concept of borrowing money. Maybe the whole idea first came in the form of a low-limit credit card or a department store card. Or maybe we started borrowing money when we took out student loans and we simply resigned ourselves to the fact that borrowing money is a part of life. Then, as we got more and more comfortable with borrowing, we took out more cards, loans, and borrowed other places.

After going through a cycle of borrowing and trying to repay, many people become more aware of how the process works. If you have children, this is a very valuable lesson you can teach them. You can explain to them how the process works and what the implications are so that the first time they are presented with the idea, they have the facts. Your experience can be a great teacher for them.

Repaying

Up until recently, lenders like credit card companies didn’t have to clearly lay out the implications of making minimum payments on debts. For those who didn’t know better, they may have assumed that they could simply pay the minimum monthly payment and the debt would be retired in a relatively short matter of time. This is almost never the case with things like credit cards. Oftentimes, even small debts will take years and years to pay off if only the minimum payment is made each time. This is another pearl of wisdom you can pass along to your children. You can teach them that when they do borrow, they will need to pay attention to these number and figures and be prepared to know what to expect before they sign up for anything.

It’s Not “Real Money”

When you’re given a line of credit, it might not feel like real money. It’s really just a number. And then if you make your payments online, an amount is just debited out of your checking account. It might not be tangible to you. Think about creative ways to quantifying money when you talk to your children, or even quantifying the amount of money they will spend in interest. Try explaining that “this is enough money for a new video game…a new bike…or even a new car” (depending on how much money you are talking about). Putting it in real terms might help them think about what the numbers mean and make it more tangible.

Saving

Many young people open their first credit card so that they have a backup plan for “unexpected expenses.” Since life is unpredictable, these lines of credit almost always get utilized. By saving up an “emergency fund” instead of utilizing credit cards, you can still be prepared for those unexpected expenses. Encourage your children to start a “rainy day” fund for themselves very early—maybe when they are working just a part time job and still in school. By the time they start their adult lives, they will have a nice little bit saved up that they can rely on as a backup plan rather than opening a credit card for the same purpose.

Finally, it’s important to re-iterate that the reasons for financial hardships are as diverse as the people experiencing them. The above information is not at all to suggest that poor decisions were made by anyone, but just a way of explaining how sometime good lessons can come out of hard times. If you are facing financial problems and need to talk to one of our Milwaukee bankruptcy attorneys to find out what your options are, please don’t hesitate to give us a call today. We’re always here to help!

How to Cope with Bankruptcy and Divorce

When it comes to legal processes, bankruptcy and divorce are among the most stressful. The same goes for life in general. Unfortunately, the level of stress involved in filing bankruptcy can sometimes result in filing for divorce, or the other way around. What does this mean for you? It means it’s incredibly important to keep things organized so nothing falls through the cracks.

Which one first?

If you’re in a situation where bankruptcy and divorce are both on the table, saving money will likely be ideal. For this reason, you’d be smart to file a joint bankruptcy before getting divorced. Not only will this save you on court fees, you’ll also save on attorney fees. Something to note, however, is that it’s crucial that you divulge all information to the attorney you’re hiring, just as in any bankruptcy. In addition to cost savings, filing for bankruptcy before divorce will help to simplify any issues surrounding property division and debt, leading to lower costs during your divorce proceedings.

What type?

Not sure which type of bankruptcy is best for you? It depends on your financial situation and a number of other factors. A Chapter 7 will get rid of unsecured debts and can be completed in just a few months or so. A Chapter 13, on the other hand, lasts 3-5 years because it involves paying back your debt through a repayment plan.

If you’ve found yourself in a situation involving bankruptcy and divorce, a good idea is to contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney like Michael Burr to guide you through the process. Contact us to set up a free consultation today.

How to File Bankruptcy: Documents

In order to qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you need to provide details about your current financial situation, including your debts and income. You need to back up all information you disclose in your bankruptcy paperwork with official financial documents. Here’s a look at some of the documents you will need to provide to the trustee handling your bankruptcy petition and how to file bankruptcy:

Tax Returns

You need to give your trustee a copy of your tax returns or tax transcripts for the last two years. If you haven’t filed your tax returns, you will need to provide an explanation as to why you were unable to file them. You may need to file your taxes before continuing with your petition.

Income Documentation

To show proof of your employment and monthly income, you need to provide copies of paystubs for the six-month period before you filed for bankruptcy. You also need a copy of your last two W-2 forms. In addition, you need to provide details of any supplemental monthly income you receive, including social security, disability, and rental properties.

Valuation of Property

If you are a property owner, you need to provide a full appraisal of your property and a mortgage statement showing your current loan balances. You will also need to provide your trustee with deeds of trust and proof of your homeowner’s insurance. Similar documentation needs to be provided if you have a car loan.

Miscellaneous Documents

Any financial obligations that may affect your bankruptcy petition need to be disclosed. For example, you need to provide information about alimony or child support obligations with proof of these expenses. At the hearing, you will also need to show your trustee a valid form of photo identification, such as a driver’s license.

For more information and help on how to file bankruptcy, schedule a meeting with Burr Law Office. We are an affordable bankruptcy attorney in the Milwaukee area. You can reach us by dialing (262) 827-0375.

3 Tips for Talking to Your Spouse About Bankruptcy

If you’re married, you can file a bankruptcy petition either individually or jointly with your spouse. Filing a joint petition provides some benefits, as it results in lower bankruptcy costs, the elimination of all dischargeable debts, and an efficient filing process. Both you and your spouse need to agree that bankruptcy is in your best interests to file a joint petition, however, so it’s important that you discuss the matter together before meeting with an attorney.

Set Aside a Specific Time to Talk

Talking about your finances can be sensitive and stressful, so it’s important to be free of distractions when you discuss your options. During your talk, make sure that your cell phones are off and that you are in a quiet area. Both you and your spouse need to commit to a specific time so that you are mentally prepared to discuss your financial situation.

Avoid Placing Blame

Placing the blame on one party isn’t going to help you resolve your debt issues. In fact, it will likely make the situation worse, because it can increase tension in your relationship. Instead of placing blame, take this time to assess how you arrived at your current financial situation by analyzing your debts, monthly bills, and monthly income. Once you have this information, focus on the future and discuss how you are going to resolve your financial situation together.

Consider Your Spouse’s Feelings

If you and your spouse disagree on whether or not to file for bankruptcy, you need to listen to your spouse’s arguments without any interruption or criticism. This will help your spouse feel comfortable discussing his or her concerns with the idea of declaring bankruptcy. If you can’t agree, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can help you understand the benefits and disadvantages of a joint petition.

For more information and to get help, call Burr Law Office at (877) 891-1638. We provide affordable bankruptcy services to residents of the Milwaukee area. You can learn more by visiting our website.

Bankruptcy Court: Inheritances

Milwaukee bankruptcy inheritanceIt’s not uncommon for people to receive inheritance money when a loved on passes away. For those that have filed or are considering filing for bankruptcy, the question of “what will happen to that money?” will generally come up. This situation will affect the way the Milwaukee bankruptcy court views your case. Attorney Michael Burr is here to help you find the optimal solution to these types of questions. Here are a couple general circumstances to consider when it comes to inheritance dollars.

Whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, inheritance money received during your bankruptcy will generally be considered an asset. Assets can be protected in some cases but will often become part of the bankruptcy estate in some way or another.

Chapter 13

When you file for Milwaukee Chapter 13, your property is not liquidated as in a Chapter 7. In return, however, you’re required to pay back your debts through a repayment plan. Inheritance money is considered an asset, so trustees will generally want you to pay more to your unsecured creditors. In other words, inheritance money can increase the amount of your monthly plan payment.

The 180 Day Guideline

For Milwaukee Chapter 7 cases, any inheritance money you acquire within the first 180 days after filing would be considered property of the bankruptcy estate. This means the nonexempt portion of the money you receive would be taken by your trustee and distributed to any unsecured creditors.

In Chapter 13, you generally get to keep your assets. However in these cases you would still be required to pay. A general rule of thumb is that you’ll be required to pay at least the nonexempt portion of the inheritance.

If you receive inheritance money after the 180 day period in a Chapter 13, most trustees will argue that you should be required to pay it into your plan.

If you’re thinking about filing for bankruptcy and have received or will be receiving an inheritance, contact the experts at Burr Law Office. We’ll help you figure out what the best steps are and how to work with the Milwaukee bankruptcy court to settle your case.

How to Continue With a Bankruptcy Petition During Divorce

Financial difficulties can put strain on a marriage and contribute to the decision to file for divorce. Couples who decide to file for divorce in the midst of filing for bankruptcy may face complications in terms of discharging their debts and reporting their assets. For this reason, couples filing for both at the same time need to take additional steps to ensure that this process goes smoothly.

Consult with an Attorney

Filing for divorce may affect your bankruptcy filing status and your ability to meet the obligations in a Milwaukee Chapter 13 repayment plan. That’s why it’s best to seek the help of an attorney who has significant experience with bankruptcy law. You may need to consult with both a divorce attorney and a bankruptcy attorney throughout the course of your case. Your attorneys can help each other determine whether or not it’s in your best interest to proceed with divorce before your Chapter 13 petition is resolved.

Establish Divorce Settlement

You should try to create a divorce settlement agreement with your spouse that determines how the monthly payment plan of a Chapter 13 petition will be divided between you. Failing to reach an agreement means that you may have to handle the matter in court, which may reject the notion of designating one spouse as solely responsible for the debt.

Talk to Your Trustee

You need to talk to the trustee assigned to your case about your plans to file for divorce. Your trustee receives monthly payments and allocates them to your creditors according to your payment plan, so he or she will need to review your proposed divorce settlement and individual spousal incomes.

Call (877) 891-1638 to discuss your filing options with Milwaukee bankruptcy attorney Michael Burr. We provide affordable services to help eliminate or consolidate your debts. Our goal is to help you find permanent relief from your financial hardship and secure a positive financial future.

A Married Couple’s Guide to Filing Bankruptcy

Wisconsin is known as a community property state. This means that any assets or debts that a married couple collects during marriage belong to both of them. Even if the wife is a stay at home mother, her husband’s credit card debt burden legally belongs to her. When filing for Milwaukee bankruptcy, couples need to consider whether the debt they need to discharge was incurred before or during their marriage.

Filing Jointly

Most often, if you and your spouse have debt—from remodeling a home, getting behind on your mortgage payments, or racking up credit card bills—you will jointly file. This means that both of your “estates” will be financially affected, and creditors can look to repossess or sell property that belongs to both of you or was acquired during marriage. Wisconsin’s community property laws mean that you and your spouse will be affected evenly. Depending on your situation, this option will protect most of your assets and help you discharge more debts than with an individual petition.

One Spouse Filing on His or Her Own

Sometimes, one spouse incurs a great deal of debt in his or her name only, or incurs the debt in its entirety before marriage. If so, he or she can file without requiring their spouse to do so as well. However, the courts will generally require information from the spouse about salary and other assets of the non-filing in order to determine whether or not the filing spouse qualifies for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

If you are a married couple looking to Milwaukee bankruptcy as a solution to your financial burdens, contact Burr Law Office today. We can help apply the U.S. bankruptcy law to your family’s specific financial situation. Call (262) 827-0375 to see how we can protect your assets while discharging debt! If you are in Milwaukee and looking for a bankruptcy lawyers near me, call Burr Law today.