Car Deduction Allowed on Means Test, Reversed by District Court

In re Thomas, Case No 06-21108
In re Camacho, Case No. 06-20729
October 2007,  Judge Berger

UST Motion To Dismiss under 707(b) for presumed abuse based upon totality of circumstances was denied. The Court concluded that the debtors are entitled to claim vehicle ownership for expenses, even though debtors did not have liens or leases on the vehicles. (See In Re Howell, 06-11652 for opposing view from Judge Nugent.). Judge Lungstrum subsequently reversed and remanded Thomas, 382 B.R. 793 (D. Kan. 2008).

Digest by:  Jan Hamilton, Trustee

No Early Payoff, But Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan Modification Possible

In re Kidd, et al, Case No. 06-41232
August 2007, Judge Karlin

The Court recognized changes in 1324(b)(4) and held that debtors may not propose an early pay off but may obtain the same in the right circumstances via 1329.

Digest by:  Jan Hamilton, Trustee

Means Test Form Controls Unless Significant Changes in Circumstances

In re Lanning, Case No. 06-41037
May 2007, Judge Karlin

Over the Chapter 13 Trustee’s objection, the Court confirmed the plan because of significant changes in circumstances at the time of filing that caused Line 58 on B22C to be higher than what the debtor could afford to pay. BAP and 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, Petition for Cert to U.S. Supreme Court pending. Lanning controls in Judge Karlin’s court, until, if and when, the decision is overturned.

Digest by:  Jan Hamilton, Trustee

How Long Does Chapter 13 Last if My Income is Below Median?

In re Daniel, Case No. 06-20714
December 2006, Judge Somers

In a Below Median case, debtor’s income is determined by B22C and expenses by Schedule J and must “run” for 36 months (The Applicable Commitment Period) or pay  100% of all allowed unsecured claims. B22C is temporal, rather than a multiplier. Read carefully.

Digest by:  Jan Hamilton, Trustee

What are Bankruptcy Avoidance Powers?

Avoidance powers: Rights given to the bankruptcy trustee (or the debtor in possession in a Chapter 11) to recover certain transfers of property such as preferences or fraudulent transfers or to void liens created before the commencement of a bankruptcy case. More on preferences.

What is Bankruptcy Lien Avoidance?

Avoidance: The Bankruptcy Code permits the debtor to eliminate (avoid) some kinds of liens that interfere with (or impair) an exemption claimed in the bankruptcy. Most judgment liens that have attached to the debtor’s home can be avoided if the total of the liens (mortgages, judgment liens and statutory liens) is greater than the value of the property in which the exemption is claimed. This is sometimes called “lien stripping.” For more, see Lien Avoidance and Lien Stripping.

Chapter 13 Payment Amount Can Change, But Not Plan Length

In re Moore, Case No. 06-20031
April 2007, Judge Berger

Debtors’ circumstances changed post petition pre confirmation. Although this does not change the ACP, it can change the amount to be paid to creditors. The ACP is locked in as of the date of filing. The Court noted that 1325(b)(1) only comes into play if the trustee objects, and the trustee has the discretion to object or not.

Digest by:  Jan Hamilton, Trustee

What is the Automatic Stay?

Automatic stay: The injunction issued automatically upon the filing of a bankruptcy case which prohibits collection actions against the debtor, the debtor’s property or the property of the estate. See Relief from Stay on terminating the injunction.

My Income Is Below Median, How Long Do I Pay My Chapter 13 Payments?

In re Pohl, Case No. 06-41236
May 2007, Judge Karlin
The Court determined that a below the line debtor’s case must “run” 36 months, unless it
pays off all claims in full, citing 1325(b)(4). Below the line disposable income
determined by Schedule J, since the bottom half of B22C does not get filled out by a BMI
debtor. ACP is temporal and not a multiplier. Judge Karlin cited, with approval, Judge
Somers’ decision, In re Daniel and Judge Berger’s decisions, In re Beckerle and In re
Anderson on the ACP issue.

In re Pohl, Case No. 06-41236
May 2007, Judge Karlin

The Court determined that a below the line debtor’s case must “run” 36 months, unless it pays off all claims in full, citing 1325(b)(4). Below the line disposable income determined by Schedule J, since the bottom half of B22C does not get filled out by a BMI debtor. ACP is temporal and not a multiplier. Judge Karlin cited, with approval, Judge Somers’ decision, In re Daniel and Judge Berger’s decisions, In re Beckerle and In re Anderson on the ACP issue.

Source:  Jan Hamilton, Trustee

Will I Lose My House If I File Bankruptcy?

I am frequently asked by people who are thinking of filing bankruptcy, “Will I lose my house if I file bankruptcy?” The fear of losing everything in bankruptcy is very real.

Fortunately, in Kansas the protection our law has for your home is in our state constitution and statutes. That is quite different from other states, Missouri, for example.

If you are entitled to claim the Kansas homestead exemption, it is unlikely you will lose your home for filing bankruptcy. Most of my clients who lose their homes, do so because they can’t afford to pay the mortgage payments and real estate taxes. Bankruptcy is not what causes people to lose their homes in Kansas usually.

There are some situations, which are rare, fortunately, when the bankruptcy trustee might be able to attack your homestead–the reasons are too complicated for a general information blog. Discuss the history of your home ownership with your attorney to put your mind at ease. Your attorney can analyze your circumstances and advise you of your rights so you can quit worrying.

Can I Keep One Credit Card Out of My Bankruptcy?

Clients sometimes ask me if they can keep just one credit card out of the bankruptcy?  They want to omit it from the bankruptcy paperwork and keep paying the credit card payments after the bankruptcy filing so they can have one credit line.  Usually, this request is prompted by the fear of not having credit after the bankruptcy filing for emergencies.

Omitting a credit card account from the bankruptcy schedules generally BACKFIRES.  Most of the credit card lenders will FIND OUT out about the bankruptcy, even if the account is not listed, and CANCEL the credit line.  Lenders subscribe to electronic services such as Banko to tell them about all bankruptcies filed every day.

Many credit cards such as JC Penney and Dillards are actually the same creditor and notice to one account at GE Money Bank will result in cancellation of all accounts through that bank.  Often lenders run your name through the credit reporting agencies on a periodic basis.  The lender will FIND OUT, it is just a matter of when.

Once the lender finds out about your bankruptcy, the credit card account will be canceled, any post-bankruptcy payments will be forfeited, your account will be sent to collection for any post-bankruptcy charges and you will have negative post-bankruptcy credit history.

Omitting creditors from your bankruptcy schedules is wrong.  Intentially leaving off creditors in your bankruptcy case is fraud and a federal crime.  The discharge of debts is a reward for honest debtors who make full disclosure of their finances.  In addition to risking prosecution for perjury, you could be denied your discharge.

Can I list the credit card and keep it by reaffirming?  Generally, no.  Most creditors will not agree to a reaffirmation of unsecured debts and most bankruptcy judges will not approve such reaffirmations.  Your attorney is not likely to be willing to sign a required affidavit that reaffirmation of credit card debt is in your best interest.

GAP Insurance Not In Car Lender's PMSI

GAP insurance, service contracts, administrative fees and the traded-in car payoff are not part of a car lender’s purchase-money secured claim in chapter 13 bankruptcy and can be crammed-down if the car is worth less than the loan balance, Judge Janice Miller Karlin ruled this week in In Re Miller, Case No. 08-40935, (Bankr. D.Kan. December 2, 2008).

Judge Karlin suggested the ruling may be different for service contracts in a future case if the creditor convinces her the contract enhances the value of the vehicle.  Creditors have the burden of proof to establish their purchase money security interest (PMSI) claim, she said.

Non-PMSI charges are still part of the creditor’s secured claim and must be paid in chapter 13 bankruptcy up to the value of the car. A debtor must pay the entire PMSI to retain a car even if the amount is greater than the car’s value if the loan was incurred within 910 days of bankruptcy. [Read more…]

Courts Launch Bankruptcy Videos

The federal bankruptcy courts rolled out short web videos on basic bankruptcy topics for consumers considering filing bankruptcy.

The first video explains that bankruptcy is a legal process for individuals who cannot pay their debts, which stops debt collection and discharges the debts.

All eight videos can be viewed on or the courts website.

New Kansas Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Discharge Procedure Proposed

A new procedure for issuing chapter 13 bankruptcy discharges and administratively closing the cases is being considered in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Kansas.  Here is a summary of the procedure from the minutes of the September 17, 2008, Bench and Bar Committee:

  • About six months before anticipated plan completion the Chapter 13 Trustees will file a Notice of Plan Approaching Completion.
  • If no Financial Management Certificate has been filed by Debtors, the Court’s case management computer software (CM/ECF) will send a notice to Debtor and Debtor(s)’ counsel reminding them that the Financial Management Certificate must be filed prior to making the last payment in a Chapter 13 plan. [Read more…]

Kansas Bankruptcy Court Proposes Local Rules Changes

Amendments to the local rules of practice and procedure are proposed by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Kansas about post-confirmation recovery of assets by the chapter 13 trustee, proof of insurance on motor vehicles, required information for attorney signatures on pleadings, and cases commenced by foreign representatives.

The Court is soliciting written comments on the proposed local rules until December 1, 2008.  Comments may be sent to the Clerk of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, 444 SE Quincy, Topeka, KS 66683, or at the clerk’s office in the Wichita and Kansas City, KS, divisions.

Click here to download a redlined copy of the proposed revisions.  Minutes of the Bench and Bar Committee, which recommends the proposed changes, can be found here on the court’s website.

Consider Chapter 13 is a new web site launched by the National Association of Chapter 13 Trustees Academy for Consumer Bankruptcy Education. The site contains information for consumers and bankruptcy attorneys by the Chapter 13 trustees who belong to the NACTT.

As always with any information on the internet, you should ask questions and discuss specific issues with your own bankruptcy attorney.  Chapter 13 bankruptcy practice varies widely from trustee to trustee and judge to judge around the country.