Foreclosure For Sale sign

Bankruptcy: Should You Consider Filing When You Face Foreclosure?

When a lender decides to foreclose on your property, where do you turn? Filing for bankruptcy may not seem like the obvious answer, but it might be a viable solution in some cases. Here’s how these concepts all add up under Wisconsin law.

Foreclosure Fundamentals

Foreclosure is when you are behind in mortgage payments and a bank, loan servicer or other lending institution decides it’s going to seize your property. Thanks to the lending contract you signed, they have the right to grab your home, office or other asset and sell it for the cash.

Of course, there are some limits to this power. Banks usually only foreclose when you’ve missed three (3) payments or more. If it looks like you’re not going to pay, then the lender will want to cut its losses.

Bankruptcy As a Self-defense Mechanism

The glaring problem with foreclosure actions is that they don’t always leave consumers with room for error. Lenders can be quite aggressive about recovering their losses and fail to consider the human impacts.

Bankruptcy is an effective last line of defense because it instantly implements an automatic stay. This puts a halt to creditor actions such as

What Happens Next?

After a bankruptcy filing, the automatic stay will remain active until the case wraps up in a few months. Life doesn’t always play out so perfectly, however. If a lender files a motion to lift, or cancel, the automatic stay, then your breather might be cut short.

Are creditors trying to make things tougher? The lender just wants to get its money back because you are behind in mortgage payments. Reducing the length of the stay makes it possible to sell your property earlier.

Upholding the Stay

Fortunately, you can fight back. When lenders try to get stays canceled, they typically make the argument that they’re losing money. You might counter by

  • Showing that a mortgage’s equity, or property value minus lien balance, is high enough to cover the lender’s losses, or
  • Providing the lender with court-approved adequate protection, such as interest-only cash payments, during the case.

Making a Smart Choice

When lenders foreclose, families can lose their homes and the lifestyles they’re used to. Professionals might have to give up the vehicles that are critical to their careers.

Foreclosure cases can be tricky to predict. Bankruptcy may let consumers divert bad situations toward better outcomes. It doesn’t stop the foreclosure forever, but if you’re behind in mortgage payments, putting things on hold could help you get back to a state of financial balance.

Want to learn more about how bankruptcy types like Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 might help you push back and even stop foreclosure until you regain your footing? Talk to bankruptcy attorney Michael Burr at the Burr Law Office.

Photo by Jeff Turner from Flickr using Creative Commons license.

Filing for Bankruptcy? Here’s What to Know About Your Tax Debt

Filing for bankruptcy won’t magically solve all of your money problems. What it can do, however, is reduce some of your hardships. When it comes to your overdue tax burdens, you may get some relief. Does bankruptcy clear tax debt? Here’s what to know about the complex rules and why you might need legal help.

Understanding Bankruptcy

Being bankrupt doesn’t just mean that you can’t pay your debts. It’s a specific type of legal status with roots in constitutional law, and you have to petition a court to leverage the benefits. As you might expect, this process includes a variety of rules.

A Good Example: Chapter 7

Imagine that you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Wisconsin. This widely used form of protection lets you transfer your assets, or properties, over to a third party. The third party, or trustee, then sells them and uses the money to pay your creditors.

Chapter 7 and Taxes

Does bankruptcy clear tax debt? It all depends on your situation and ability to build a strong, evidence-backed case.

Chapter 7 only lets you eliminate tax debt under specific circumstances. For instance, you’ll still need to file your taxes during your bankruptcy case, and you need to have filed a previous return at least two years before seeking protection. You also can’t have previously taken unlawful actions, such as lying on a return or trying to hide non-exempt assets, to evade taxes or mislead the court.

The specifics of the tax debts that you want to discharge also matter. Chapter 7 only excuses income tax debt that’s at least three years old at the time of your filing. In addition, the IRS needs to have assessed the liability at least 240 days before your bankruptcy petition becomes formal.

If you owe money in penalties from missing a payment or took on more tax debt recently, then these liabilities won’t be excused. It’s also important to understand the case-by-case limitations of the rules: As various cases in the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bankruptcy Court have shown, things like tax refunds may not be protected from claims.

The Value of Filing for Bankruptcy

Why file for protection if you have to jump through so many hoops? When you work with a reputable attorney like Burr Law Office, there are many potential advantages.

Chapter 7 has the benefit of immediately stopping your collectors from pursuing repayment. This temporary relief, also known as an automatic stay, only lasts while your case is going through court, but it can be a huge perk if you’re struggling financially. What’s more, the stay goes into effect the instant you file even if you don’t eventually receive approval.

Chapter 7 filings can also be quick compared to alternatives, such as Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Although these options have their benefits, they require you to come up with a repayment plan, which can take time.

Filing for bankruptcy has the potential to relieve you from overbearing debt. Even if it doesn’t clear all of your tax debt, the mere act of giving you breathing room may make it easier to adapt and pay what you owe.

Want to learn more about the ins and outs of seeking bankruptcy protection in Milwaukee or Waukesha? Talk to a legal tax debt adviser at the Burr Law Office. Call (262) 827-0375 today.

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!

The Road to Financial Recovery After Filing for Bankruptcy

Chapter 13 | Milwaukee Bankruptcy AttorneyAs experts in bankruptcy law in Wisconsin, we’ve seen a whole range of financial situations that cause individuals and families to file for bankruptcy. It’s certainly true that no two cases are exactly alike; however, there are very often common contributing factors involved in many of the bankruptcies we see.

As a premiere bankruptcy law firm in Milwaukee, we understand—perhaps more than anyone—the importance of bankruptcy law for protecting the lives and futures of families all over southeastern Wisconsin. Bankruptcy law exists so that people can have a fresh start and get back on the right track with their finances.

As we have mentioned many times in the past, we certainly understand there are many different unique situations that may lead a person or family to decide to file for bankruptcy, and it’s not our intention to paint with a broad brush. But in this post, we would like to talk a bit about some common tips for helping people get back on track after completing the bankruptcy process. While these tips aren’t applicable in all situations, we do find that following these few suggestions can be positive steps for many of our clients.

#1. Start Rebuilding Your Credit

If credit cards put you in a financial hard spot in the past, it’s likely you may be a bit wary of opening another account after a bankruptcy—not to mention the fact that you’ll also likely have a hard time being approved. But what many people don’t realize is that using credit cards is not the only way to build or re-build credit. If you are a renter, you can ask your landlord to report your on-time rent payment history to the credit bureaus. If you have a post-paid cell phone plan, paying your bill on time will also build your credit. And most people have utility bills as well. Pay them on time and in full and you’ll be on your way to building credit—all without having to do any borrowing.

#2. Start a Savings Account

This may seem counter-intuitive, especially if you are working hard just to make ends meet. You might think there is never any money left over for savings, but you may be surprised at how you can push yourself to get creative and make sure you have some money—even if it’s just a very little bit at first—to put away for savings. Research shows that having a savings account acts as a great “safety net” and can often prevent people from turning to things like payday loans or high-interest credit cards for emergencies.

#3. Reduce Your Bills

You might be saying to yourself, “I can’t reduce my bills—they are what they are.” While there are many bills you simply can’t avoid paying, it’s worthwhile to take a good, hard look at what you are paying out every month. Is there anything you can cut out and won’t miss all that much? And for bills that are a “must,” like utilities, find ways to try to decrease them by trying to conserve energy or running the heat just a bit lower. Make a point of using free wifi when available and reduce your cell phone data plan by a few dollars a month. Get creative!

#4. Set a Budget

Studies show many Americans don’t do any kind of household budgeting. Without a budget, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to keep track of how your money is coming and going. You can’t get control of your money if you don’t know anything about it. Start small if the process seems intimidating. Set a budget for one category, such as food/grocery and see how you do with it. As you get comfortable with tracking your money, start tracking more and more of it until you know how just about all of it is being spent or managed. You’ll be surprised at how much you may be spending on things you don’t think twice about, and you also might be surprised that some items that you assumed were costing you a lot aren’t actually costing you as much as you assumed. Get educated about your money and start making it work for you.

While the above tips certainly won’t apply to everyone, give some of the suggestions a try if you think they may be applicable to you. If you’re facing financial hardship and need information about your options under the bankruptcy law, contact Burr Law Office LLC today and let us work with you to find a solution that truly protects you and your future.

Is It Time for You to File for Bankruptcy?

We all know how stressful the holidays can be on our wallet and bank account. Sometimes it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that you need to reach out to external sources for help. One of the most important things to understand is that open communication is key to successfully getting out of debt. Whether your spouse, bankruptcy attorney, or other source, open communication and willingness to cooperate will help make the process smoother and much less difficult. Here are a few ways to know if it may be time to file for a bankruptcy.

Credit Card Payments

If you’re consistently making the minimum payments on your credit card, it can mean one of two things. You may be making purchases you shouldn’t be which is more linked in irresponsible spending, or you may need help getting your credit situation figured out. If the latter is the case, contacting an experienced bankruptcy attorney may be a smart idea.

Debt Collectors

If you’ve been receiving phone calls from debt collectors, you’d be smart to consider contacting a bankruptcy attorney. One of the main reasons working with an attorney is smart is because they have the capability and knowledge to resolve issues like debt collectors.

Unsure About Debt

If you’re not sure how much money you owe, it would be in your best interest to contact a bankruptcy attorney. If you aren’t aware of your financial situation, it’s hard to determine the next steps.

For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Burr Law Office today. Our expert Milwaukee and Waukesha bankruptcy team will help you find the best debt relief solution for your needs.

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 (877) 891-1638.

How to File for Bankruptcy

Waukesha bankruptcy adviceMany people find themselves in difficult financial situations and come to a point where they need to decide whether or not bankruptcy is the right option. The best thing to do in this situation is schedule a complimentary consultation with Attorney Michael Burr. He will help guide you through the entire process of how to file for bankruptcy, catering to your specific needs. Here are a few quick bits of information that can help you determine if you should move forward.

You won’t lose everything.

It’s a common misconception that filing for bankruptcy means you’ll lose everything. Depending on your particular situation, you are allowed to exempt a certain amount of property. You cannot, however, hide possessions or “sell” things to family or friends in attempts to keep them. There are serious penalties for such actions, as they are considered fraud. An experienced Milwaukee bankruptcy attorney, like Attorney Michael Burr, can explain how to properly list your assets to maximize your exemptions.

There are multiple types of bankruptcy.

Depending on your situation, you may only qualify for certain types of bankruptcy. Chapter 7, or “straight bankruptcy,” is quite difficult to qualify for. More common is Chapter 13, or “wage earners bankruptcy,” which reorganizes your debts into a repayment schedule. In order to qualify for bankruptcy, you will be required to complete a means test which determines your eligibility.

Work with a lawyer.

New bankruptcy laws in 2005 have made it much more difficult to file for bankruptcy. While it’s not required by law, it is highly recommended that you work with a lawyer when filing. Milwaukee Bankruptcy Attorney, Michael Burr, has over 20 years of experience in bankruptcy law and truly cares about his clients. At the very least, we recommend scheduling a consultation to learn why working with Attorney Burr can help save time, money, and pain.

These tips are by no means legal advice and should be considered a guide as to whether or not you should inquire further about how to file for bankruptcy with Attorney Burr. At Burr Law Offices, we want to give you the fresh financial start you’re looking for. Contact the best bankruptcy lawyers Milwaukee us today to schedule your consultation.

Don’ts: Things Not To Do Before Filing for Waukesha Bankruptcy

If you find yourself in a situation where filing for bankruptcy is your best option, there are a few things you should keep in mind before doing so. Due to the fact that your debts will soon be reorganized and put into someone else’s control, it’s important that you abide by rules and regulations associated with bankruptcy. The last thing you would want is for new problems to arise. Here are a few helpful tips to consider, from Waukesha bankruptcy lawyer Michael Burr.

Don’t: Acquire new debt.

Creditors may attempt to object to a discharge if you’ve increased your debt within up to 90 days before filling. They may argue that it’s a case of fraud, saying that you acquired the debt with no intention of paying it back. Additionally, you shouldn’t cash out or take loans from your 401(k), pension, or any other retirement plan or take out an equity line of credit against your home. Doing any of these things can cause issues in your bankruptcy.

Don’t: Provide inaccurate, dishonest, or incomplete information.

Completely the paperwork for a bankruptcy filing must be taken very seriously. Lying or providing falsified information can lead to serious consequences in addition to putting an immediate stop to your bankruptcy filing. Be sure to provide all information correctly and do not hide any information.

Don’t: Skip filing your income tax returns.

Filing for bankruptcy is, in essence, impossible if you haven’t filed all of your income tax returns for at least two years prior to filing. These documents play a very important role in determining your earnings and asset holdings. Be sure to provide all tax related information to your Waukesha bankruptcy attorney before proceeding.

Don’t: Lie about or hide assets.

It is very important that you do not hide any assets in a bankruptcy filing. Some people may be tempted to sell or transfer assets in hopes that they will be protected during your bankruptcy proceedings. If you do this, there is a strong chance that you would be denied a discharge and could face criminal charges. There are exceptions to this, of course, in that some people sell things hoping to help pay off their debts on their own. The important thing to note if you’ve done so is to let the trustee know. They’ll generally ask if you’ve sold, transferred, or given away any assets up to a year before filing.

Nobody wants to be presented with issues in addition to what they’re already dealing with. If you’ve already done one of these things or want to learn more things to avoid before filing, talk with Waukesha bankruptcy Attorney Michael Burr. He can help you determine the best solution for your situation and get you on the path to being debt-free.

What Filing for Bankruptcy Can and Cannot Do

Milwaukee bankruptcy attorneyA good way to determine if filing for bankruptcy is the right decision is to consider exactly what the process can do. When you file for  Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you have the ability to discharge many of your unsecured debts while keeping non-exempt property. Chapter 13 also allows you to reduce secured debts that are more than the secured property or collateral is worth, as well as put an automatic stay on foreclosure proceedings.

Filing for Chapter 7  will not provide these aforementioned benefits, but it will help wipe out credit card debts and other unsecured debts, stop collection activities and creditor harassment, and eliminate certain types of liens. It is important to realize that filing for either type of bankruptcy will usually not eliminate alimony obligations, child support payments, student loans, tax debts, and other non-dischargeable debts such as penalties for violating the law.

You can learn about your options for filing for bankruptcy in Milwaukee by contacting bankruptcy lawyer Michael Burr at Burr Law Office at (877) 891-1638. Click on the link to visit us at our website.