People sometimes put off bankruptcy when they know they really need to file because they worry about losing their property. While there are myths and stories of people who lost everything when they filed, this doesn’t really happen. Just about everyone who files bankruptcy does so reluctantly, but later looks back and sees it as a wise financial move that afforded them a new start.
How Bankruptcy Exemptions Work
Bankruptcy is designed to give consumers the help they need to get back on their feet; it’s not a punishment that’s meant to leave people destitute and unable to live a successful life. To give people a hand, the federal government allows certain exemptions that protect property and assets. There are many types of exemptions that can be combined to protect the things that are most important and necessary. Items that end up not being exempt are evaluated by the court trustee, and they may need to be sold to repay your creditors. These exemptions also help to keep your repayment plan reasonable if you’re filing a Chapter 13. In the majority of cases, consumers are able to keep their property while also discharging debt.
Keeping Your Assets
Exemption guidelines were last revised in 2013 in order to reflect the current economy and cost of living. Items may be completely exempt or have a capped exemption amount. The assets that are exempt are usually accounts, income, and entitlements that would be devastating to lose, such as:
- Domestic maintenance income, such as child support and alimony
- Benefits such as social security, unemployment, veterans’ benefits, public assistance, and disability benefits
- Life insurance policies that have not matured
- Life insurance payments you receive as a dependent of someone else
- Health aids that are documented as medically necessary
- Retirement accounts (IRAs and Roth IRAs are capped at $1,245,475)
We’ll be sure to accurately estimate the worth and value of items with capped exemption limits in order to protect you as much as possible. Items are valued using resale value, not the replacement or purchase amount. These assets include:
- Homestead: $22,975 in equity of primary residence (does not include vacation or rental properties)
- Jewelry: $1,550
- Motor vehicle: $3,675
- Loan value on life insurance: $12,250
- Tools of your trade or items necessary for employment: $2,300
- Aggregate value of household goods, furnishings, clothing, instruments, appliances, etc.: $12,250
The court also has an allowance for a wildcard exemption. This can be used to protect valuable property that is not listed or can be combined with another exemption to protect high valued items. This exemption is currently set at $1,225 plus $11,500 of any unused portion of the homestead exemption.
Build a Solid Case
When you work with an experienced professional bankruptcy attorney, you won’t need to worry about remembering exemption amounts and rules. We’ll walk through your case together as we build a solid case that will minimize your losses while maximizing the benefits that bankruptcy can provide.