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  • Agricultural Bankruptcy

    Overview

    Chapter 12 bankruptcy provides many alternatives for reorganizing a family farm and family fisherman debts. In practical terms, in many cases, Chapter 12 allows the debtor to reduce a mortgage to the current value of the property, reduce the interest rate to the current market rate interest and/or extend the payment period on the debt, and to greatly reduce unsecured obligations.

    Farmers experiencing financial distress are encouraged to discuss these issues with a bankruptcy attorney. Many of the issues raised here can be very complicated when applied to a specific case. Good legal advice and careful planning are critical aspects to a successful bankruptcy reorganization.

    The attorneys at Steinhilber Swanson LLP have experience in helping the struggling family farmer restructure their debts to enable them to continue their family traditions in farming. If you have questions regarding farm or fisherman bankruptcy or whether bankruptcy would be appropriate for you, please call our office for an appointment with one of our bankruptcy attorneys.

    More Information on Agricultural Bankruptcy

    Chapter 12 is the section of the bankruptcy code that provides for the restructuring of the debts of the small farm, family farm, or family fisherman’s business. This section is a powerful tool that enables farmers and fishermen to reduce or restructure their payments so that they can continue to farm or fish.

    A family farm or fishing business must be family owned or controlled and meet certain eligibility requirements to file, including debt limits and restrictions on what percentage of income is derived from the farming or fishing operation. These requirements will be discussed in detail with each client when meeting with one of our attorneys. Our attorneys will review your specific situation in order to analyze the amount of debt, the percentage of the debt that comes from the farming operation, and the percentage of income that comes from the farming operation, and determine if Chapter 12 bankruptcy may be an option for you.

    What You Can Expect During Your Chapter 12 Bankruptcy

    A. A Chapter 12 Bankruptcy will provide an orderly framework for reorganization. This begins with the filing of a petition with the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court. However, careful planning with your attorney is critical prior to filing, as many rights, disclosure requirements, and deadlines are set with the filing date.

    B. All creditors must receive notice of the bankruptcy and all of the debtor’s assets and obligations must be included in the case.

    C. A trustee and judge will be immediately assigned to the case.

    D. Within 90 days of filing the bankruptcy, the Chapter 12 debtor is required to submit a reorganization plan to the bankruptcy court. The creditors do not need to approve of this plan; the creditors will not have an opportunity to vote on the plan. Only the court can approve the plan for confirmation after hearing from the creditors and the debtor. Confirmation of the plan may last several months.

    E. There are specific requirements for a plan to be confirmed. These requirements will be discussed with you during your meetings with your attorney.

    F. Once the plan is completed the trustee will be dismissed, the debtor will be discharged, and the debtor will continue to make the long term scheduled payments to the secured creditors directly.

  • Business Bankruptcy

    Overview

    The bankruptcy laws provide for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which is used primarily to rehabilitate a business debtor. Chapter 11 allows a debtor to enter into an agreement with creditors under which all or a part of the business continues. The debts of the business are restructured so as to allow the debtor to continue his business operation and make payments based on a plan of reorganization.

    Chapter 11 bankruptcy is more complex than Chapter 12 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but it may provide an option for those farm operators or individuals whose debts exceed the limits imposed by Chapters 12 and 13. Its provisions are quite complicated, and any decision to seek a debt consolidation loan, or file a Chapter 11 petition should be reviewed and planned out with an attorney extensively before filing.

    What Can You Expect During Your Chapter 11 Bankruptcy?

    A. The objective in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case is to adjust and reorganize a debtor's obligations so as to allow the business to continue.

    B. To initiate a Chapter 11 case, a voluntary petition is filed with the court. A schedule of assets and liabilities and a statement of financial affairs also must be filed.

    C. In most cases, the debtor - known as the “debtor in possession” once the case has begun - remains in possession of his property, develops a plan, and generates funds to pay his debts.

    D. Generally, a trustee is not assigned to the case unless there is evidence of fraud or mismanagement.

    E. A committee of creditors will generally be appointed to oversee the business operation under the supervision of the debtor in possession once the case has been initiated.

     

  • Business Law

    Overview

    Any individual or business can become involved in a lawsuit for a variety of reasons. The subject of the litigation may be the purchase or sale of goods or real estate. It may be the enforcement or breach of a contract, property damage, default under a mortgage or note or one of many other subjects.

    At Steinhilber Swanson LLP we are experienced in all forms of litigation and prepared to defend our clients or enforce their interests. We understand the financial and emotional stress of litigation and assist our clients in objectively evaluating their claims or defenses, budgeting the costs of litigation, forming strategies for, and achieving, successful results for our clients, whether through litigation, negotiation, mediation or arbitration.

  • Civil Litigation

    Overview

    Any individual or business can become involved in litigation, more commnaly referred to as a lawsuit, for a variety of reasons. The subject of the litigation may be the purchase or sale of goods or real estate. It may be the enforcement or breach of a contract, property damage, default under a mortgage or note or one of many other subjects.

    At Steinhilber Swanson LLP we are experienced in all forms of litigation and prepared to defend our clients or enforce their interests. We understand the financial and emotional stress of litigation and assist our clients in objectively evaluating their claims or defenses, budgeting the costs of litigation, forming strategies for, and achieving, successful results for our clients, whether through litigation, negotiation, mediation or arbitration.

  • Construction and Real Estate Law

    Overview

    With increasing regulations by government regarding land use and development, real estate and construction law has become a complex area of law, requiring expertise to navigate through the many issues that can arise. Our real estate attorneys have extensive experience representing both public and private sector clients.

  • Consumer Bankruptcy

    The purpose of bankruptcy is to give an honest debtor a fresh start in life by wiping their slate clean of debt and providing a harassment free way to repay their creditors to the extent that a person has property or income available for payment. Some bankruptcy cases are filed to allow a debtor to reorganize and establish a plan to repay creditors, while other cases involve liquidation of the debtor's property.

    Each client’s circumstances are unique, and the experienced bankruptcy attorneys at Steinhilber Swanson LLP will meet with you personally to explain and explore the options available to you under the Federal Bankruptcy Law. You will receive professional and personalized representation from attorneys who care about your situation and who can assist you in gaining relief from debt under the Bankruptcy Code.

    Bankruptcy is complex but Steinhilber Swanson LLP is a debt relief agency committed to finding the best bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy options available in each of our clients’ unique situations. If you have questions regarding debt relief, or whether you should file for bankruptcy, please call our office for an appointment with one of our bankruptcy attorneys.

    More Information on Consumer Bankruptcy


    A. Chapter 7 / Debt Liquidation

    Chapter 7 bankruptcy is designed for debtors in financial difficulty who do not have the ability to pay their existing debts. Debtors whose debts are primarily consumer debts are subject to a “means test” designed to determine whether the case should be permitted to proceed under Chapter 7. If your income is greater that the median income for your state of residence and family size, in some cases, creditors have the right to file a motion requesting that the court dismiss your case under Section 707(b) of the Code. It is up to the court to decide whether the case should be dismissed. In such a case, there may be an option to convert to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganization.

    Under Chapter 7, you may claim property as exempt, up to a given value, under governing law. A trustee may have the right to take possession of and sell the remaining property that is not exempt or otherwise pledged and use the sale proceeds to pay your creditors.

    The purpose of filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is to obtain a discharge of your existing debts. If, however, you are found to have committed certain kinds of improper conduct toward your creditors as described in the Bankruptcy Code, the court may deny your discharge and, if it does, the purpose for which you filed the bankruptcy petition will be defeated.

    Even if you receive a general discharge, some particular debts are not discharged under the law. Therefore, you may still be responsible for most taxes and student loans; debts incurred to pay non-dischargeable taxes; domestic support and property settlement obligations; most fines, penalties, forfeitures, and criminal restitution obligations; certain debts which are not properly listed in your bankruptcy papers; debts resulting from death or personal injury caused by operating a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft while intoxicated from alcohol or drugs. Also if a creditor can prove that a debt arose from fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, or theft, or from a willful and malicious injury, the bankruptcy court may determine that the debt is not discharged.

    B. Chapter 13 / Debt Repayment

    Chapter 13 is a wage earner repayment plan. It is designed for individuals with regular income who would like to pay all or part of their debts in installments over a period of time. You are only eligible for Chapter 13 bankruptcy if your debts do not exceed certain dollar amounts set forth in the Bankruptcy Code. Under a Chapter 13, you must file a plan with the court which proposes to repay your creditors all or part of the money that you owe them, from your future earnings. The period allowed by the court to repay your debts may be three years or five years, depending upon your income and other factors.

    The court must approve your plan before it can take effect. After completing the payments under your plan, your debts are generally discharged except for domestic support obligations; most student loans; certain taxes; most criminal fines and restitution obligation; certain debts which are not properly listed in your bankruptcy papers; certain debts for acts that caused death or personal injury; and certain long term secured obligations.

    A Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing may:

    • Allow you to stop foreclosure on your home
    • Give you time to catch up on your house payments
    • Stop repossession of your vehicle
    • Stop the IRS from garnishing your wages

    Things to consider when you want to consolidate your debt:


    1. You may owe 1099-C income taxes on the entire amount of “forgiven debt”.

    2. You will continue to accrue late fees, over limit charges, and any other penalties while you are in the consolidation program.

    3. You will continue to get harassing phone calls at home, work and at your neighbors and friends house while you are in these programs.

    4. You will get sued and possibly garnished by your creditors while you are in the programs.

    5. The Firms and Agencies get their money from you upfront through your first few months of payments to them while they do nothing on your behalf with your creditors.

    6. Generally, these agencies do not do anything that you cannot do yourself. If you wait long enough you will be offered the same settlement that the Firms and Agencies will eventually get you.

    7. The overwhelming majority of people who enter consolidation programs do not stick with the payments long enough to get a settlement.

    Key Points of the New Bankruptcy Law Include


    A. Credit Counseling:

    Credit counseling from a non-profit budget and credit counseling agency is now a prerequisite for filing bankruptcy.

    1. The first session of credit counseling must be completed within 180 days prior to filing, and may be completed by phone, internet, or in person.

    2. Debtors must also complete an instructional course on financial management in order to receive their final discharge. This course may be completed over the phone, internet, or in person after filing bankruptcy no later than 30 days after the meeting of creditors.

    B. Means Test:

    All individuals, who are not in business, and are seeking bankruptcy relief, will be required to qualify under the new “means test.” This test is complicated and requires the comparison of an individual or joint debtor’s gross income to the average income of other families of the same size.

    C. The Act Gives the U.S. Trustee Program New Responsibilities:

    1. To implement the new “means test” to determine whether a debtor is eligible for Chapter 7 (liquidation) or must file under Chapter 13 (wage-earner repayment plan)

    2. To supervise random audits and targeted audits to determine whether a Chapter 7 debtor’s bankruptcy documents are accurate

    3. To certify entities to provide the credit counseling that an individual must receive before filing bankruptcy

    4. To certify entities to provide the financial education that an individual must receive before discharging debts

    5. To conduct oversight in small business Chapter 11 reorganization cases

    D. Domestic Support Obligations (Child Support, Maintenance, etc):

    In most circumstances a domestic support obligation will not be discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. There are instances where the obligation could be discharged in a Chapter 13. The trustee assigned to the debtor’s case is obligated to provide notice of the bankruptcy to the person receiving the support and to any agency acting to obtain the support on behalf of the child.

    What You Will Need to File Bankruptcy


    1. Names, correspondence addresses, the approximate date when debt incurred and for what, and the amount owed to all creditors

    2. Personal Income Tax Returns for the last 2 years

    3. Most recent 6-months of paycheck stubs from all employers, as well as any unemployment income information and social security income.

    4. Copies of real estate tax bills for any land or homes

    5. Copies of all recorded mortgages (copies may be obtained from the Register of Deeds in the County in which the real property is located)

    6. List of Monthly Household Expenses

    7. List of assets, including all household goods with actual cash values (i.e., rummage sale prices) and appraisals of real property if available

    8. Copies of titles to all cars, trucks, boats, and recreational vehicles

    9. Credit Counseling Certificate (we will help you with this)

  • Estate Planning and Probate

    Overview

    Today, many people have complex estates, owning multiple pieces of property, a business, or having blended families. In addition, as we age, it is necessary for us to be thoughtful about health care and financial decisions to be made on our behalf, while we are alive. Developing a plan for your estate is the smart and thoughtful thing to do for your heirs. Our estate planning attorneys counsel clients in the best way to carry out their wishes with estate plans utilizing basic documents such as: wills, trusts, a medical power of attorney, a durable power of attorney, and marital property agreements. In addition, we utilize more sophisticated approaches to protect your assets such as irrevocable life insurance trusts, family limited partnerships and charitable foundations, and trusts, all of which may have favorable tax implications for you. We will tailor a plan that is specific and personal to your unique estate planning needs and wishes and will minimize disputes among your beneficiaries.

    The goal of having a well executed estate plan is to avoid having your plans or wishes contested in Probate. Probate is the court process by which a will is proved valid or invalid. The legal process wherein the estate of a decedent is administered. When a person dies, his or her estate must go through probate, which is a process overseen by a probate court. If the decedent leaves a will directing how his or her property should be distributed after death, the probate court must determine if it should be admitted to probate and given legal effect. If the decedent dies intestate—without leaving a will—the court appoints a Personal Representative to distribute the decedent's property according to the laws of Descent and Distribution. These laws direct the distribution of assets based on hereditary succession.

    To start your estate planning prior to an appointment with our attorneys, download this Estate Planning Checklist.

    Our representation doesn’t end with the documents, but continues in assisting the family or beneficiaries in the administration of a decedent’s estate or trust as a probate attorney.

  • Family Law

    Overview

    The term family law encompasses a wide array of legal issues from divorce and child custody and visitation, to adoption, pre-marital agreements, guardianships, annulments, and paternity. These legal issues are not just issues to those going through them and the attorneys at Steinhilber Swanson LLP know this and understand the emotional turmoil that goes hand in hand with their representation of you. We will help you through the rocky path and help you find the light at the end of the tunnel.

    You need good legal representation to guide you in these difficult and life changing issues. Our family law attorneys offer a broad scope of knowledge and experience in family law. If you have an impending legal issue in your family call Steinhilber Swanson LLP for an appointment to explore your legal options.

    What You Can Expect in Your Divorce

    • In Wisconsin you do not need a legal reason to get a divorce. Wisconsin is a no fault divorce state and the only reason you need is that you and your spouse cannot get along and the marriage is irretrievable broken.
    • You must have lived in Wisconsin for at least six months prior to filing for divorce and your divorce must be filed in the county in which one of you live.
    • To start the divorce process you will need to file a petition for divorce and typically request a temporary order which will put in place a schedule of visitation, set support amounts, determine who stays in the marital home and who goes, and divide the obligation to pay bills between the spouses while the divorce is ongoing.
    • The non-filing spouse must be personally served with the divorce papers. This is not something that you need to do yourself. We will hire a process server to do this for you.
    • Once the petition and other initial documents have been served on your spouse they will have a specific period to respond and need to appear in court for the temporary hearing.
    • If there are children involved the court will usually appoint a guardian ad litem (or “GAL”) whose role is to represent the best interests of the children, as determined by the GAL through investigation, in the court proceedings.
    • After the petition is filed the court will set the date for a default judgment. This is the first date that you could get a final judgment of divorce. The date will be at least 120 days from the date you filed. If things proceed smoothly then you will be divorced by that date. Divorces typically take longer than 120 days to go to final hearing.

    Child Custody, Visitation, & Support

    In determining child custody, visitation, and child support the court will take into consideration your job, the hours you work, your ability to work with the other parent to make decisions and co-parent, as well as the best interests of the child for the safest most stable environment for them to grow up in. The Wisconin child support guidelines that courts use to set child support payment amounts is called the Percentage of Income Standard. This standard considers the income of the parent, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, and if the parent is supporting other children. A child custody lawyer may be a separate attorney from the person who representated you during a divorce. In a situation where custody, visitation or child support is being contested, the court may order a paternity test to determine or exclude a responsible party.

    Adoption

    Adoption is a judicial proceeding that transfers all rights and responsibilities of a natural parent, if known, to an adoptive parent. The procedures as set out by law are intended to protect the best interest of the children and the rights of parents or guardians. The court will generally not grant an adoption unless the child's parents and guardian, if there is one, consent to the adoption. However, there are instances in which consent is not necessary.

    Premarital Agreements

    A premarital, often referred to as a prenuptial  or prenup agreement, typically addresses many of the issues that arise in the divorce process. These agreements are crafted to resolve ahead of time many questions that are difficult to answer during the emotionally charged period of divorce.

    Guardianships

    A guardianship can be necessary when an elderly person is no longer able to safely make their own decisions or when a child is in need of a guardian either on a temporary or permanent basis. Guardianships may be "of the person" (for decisions relating to the person's well being) or "of the estate" (for decisions relating to the person's finances) or both.

    In the case of an adult guardianship, a court must make the decision that a person is no longer competent to manage his or her own affairs and then must appoint a guardian for him or her. Often the person appointed will be an adult child of the person in need of guardianship. A medical examination and physician testimony is required to establish mental or physical incompetency.

    Guardianship proceedings are initiated through a petition. Once guardianship is established, the appointee will be responsible for making medical and financial decisions for the ward. Guardians must make annual reports to the court.

    Paternity

    A determination of paternity is used to establish custody and visitation rights as well as to set child support.

  • Criminal Law

    Overview

    If you have been arrested, are under investigation or have the police calling you requesting an interview, you are facing the criminal justice system and should seek legal advice immediately. Criminal accusations are intimidating, stressful, frightening, confusing and can result in your loss of freedom through incarceration in the county jail or the Wisconsin state prison system.

    Criminal charges are the most serious involvement with the legal system you will face in your life. You only receive one chance to tell your story and ignoring these accusations will not result in their going away. The decisions you make while facing criminal prosecution will affect the rest of your life. The mere fact you are charged with criminal charges could affect your employment, custody of your children or your personal liberty. The attorneys in our office are experienced in representing and assisting you through this most difficult time of your life. They will be at your side aggressively and vigorously defending you to ensure your rights are upheld by both the courts and the investigating officers.

    Steinhilber Swanson LLP law firm has the experience, knowledge and understanding of the criminal process and its long-term consequences and effects on our clients. We review and study every aspect of the prosecutor’s case and develop a sound defense. Our lawyers have defended clients with serious felony charges, homicide as well as misdemeanor traffic cases. Again, you can have the confidence our attorneys will provide excellent, personalized representation which will deliver the most positive outcome possible.

    What You Can Expect When You Have Been Arrested or Are Under Investigation.

    A. Arrests must be based on probable cause that a crime has been committed. The police rely on what they believe to be good information received from all sources, including your statements. You should have someone contact our firm if you are arrested or incarcerated or if you receive a telephone call from the police requesting you come to their department to discuss the matter with them.

    B. After you are arrested you will go through the booking process and can expect to be finger printed and have your mug shot taken. The police will search both your person and your vehicle and ask you questions about the incident that lead to the arrest and about you. DO NOT ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS PUT TO YOU BY A POLICE OFFICER who is investigating you with regard to a crime. They are only talking with you if they are investigating a crime. The one misconception people have with regard to giving a statement to the police is it may be used against you. A police officer would not be taking a statement from you unless it was his intent to use it against you later in a possible criminal case.

    C. The police will book you on the charges they deem appropriate and forward all police reports to the prosecuting attorney’s office. The prosecuting attorney’s office will decide what actual charges you may face at a later date. A victim or witness cannot “press” charges or drop charges; only a prosecutor has the authority to make those decisions. If a victim later recants their story or requests the district attorney to “drop” the charges, most district attorneys will not dismiss a case on that basis alone.

    D. You can retain an attorney at any time during the process of the investigation or arrest and should do so at your earliest possible convenience. If you cannot retain private counsel the courts will appoint a public defender to represent you or an attorney may be appointed directly by the county courts if you are not eligible for a state public defender.

    E. Bail will be initially set by the arresting officer and then can be reduced or increased by courts at the initial appearance or arraignment. Most defendants will be released on their own recognizance and will not have to post a cash bond. Otherwise, in the state of Wisconsin bail is cash only. Wisconsin does not have a bond system and will only accept cash or credit cards in the amount set by the court or the initial arresting officer.

    F. The case will proceed from arrest – to arraignment – to discovery – to a preliminary hearing or initial appearance – to a plea hearing – to pretrial motions – to trial and sentencing – to a possible appeal.

    G. Expungement. This is a process where a person’s conviction may be removed from their record. The ultimate goal of an expungement is to permanently clear your criminal record. Expungement at this time, however, is not totally complete in that your case cannot be removed from the state of Wisconsin’s CCAP website.