Should you
take steps such as taking cash advances, refinancing the home, making large
charitable contributions shortly before filing bankruptcy?

The answer is no.
You want to be very careful of doing anything that would be looking to
manipulate the bankruptcy situation. You should talk to an attorney before
trying to take any steps like that and be careful as that might be something that
would have severe consequences upon your bankruptcy; particularly if you are
trying to do something like this in order to manipulate the bankruptcy
situation.  You should talk to an
attorney before even considering doing anything like that and usually the
answer would be no in terms of trying to avoid doing anything of that nature.