Bankruptcy Exemptions

The US Bankruptcy Code  allows an individual or joint debtor to exempt, or keep, certain property if they go bankrupt.

Typical exempt items may include:

  • personal belongings, such as clothing,
  • items you use while working (called tools of the trade),
  • jewelry,
  • vehicles up to a certain amount,
  • and, in some states, equity in your home up to a certain amount.

Exemptions are claimed on Schedule C of the bankruptcy petition filed with the court. As with all schedules, it is important to fully complete and provide all the information requested. If no one objects to the exemptions you have listed within the time frame specified by the bankruptcy court, these assets will not be a part of your bankruptcy estate and will not be used to pay creditors through your bankruptcy case, unless you choose to sell the assets and pay the money received into your bankruptcy. 

In a small percentage of cases, the trustee will recover some assets. This is dependent on the amount and type of your assets, as well as the state’s exemptions available. A good bankruptcy lawyer will tell you in advance what assets are protected, and what assets are subject to turnover for your creditors.  It is always possible for you to make an offer to the trustee to “redeem” or buy back your non exempt property.

Deciding which assets are exempt and how and if you can protect these assets from your creditors is one of the more important and difficult aspects of your bankruptcy case. It is extremely important to consult an attorney if you have any questions regarding the issue of exempt assets.

Here’s where it gets tricky: There are federal exemptions and state exemptions, and they are often different. In most states you have the option of choosing either the federal list of exemptions, or the state list.

If you own any assets, we strongly recommend that you meet with a bankruptcy attorney prior to filing, and ask the attorney to review your assets and determine which set of exemptions are best for you.

Bankruptcy Exemptions by State

To download exemptions for your state (PDF format PDF format) click on your state, below.

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Other Related Exemptions

Federal Non-Bankruptcy
Puerto Rico
Virgin Islands