Bankruptcy Exemptions

One of the big concerns of consumers who are considering bankruptcy is that they will lose all of their property. In fact, the “I can’t file for bankruptcy because I will lose everything I own” myth is one of the biggest misconceptions out there about the bankruptcy process. Rather than automatically losing all of your property, the bankruptcy court compares your assets against the applicable exemptions for your state to determine whether there is anything to distribute to creditors. The majority of people who file for personal bankruptcy are able to utilize exemption laws to retain all of their property through the process. Each state, as well as the federal system, have bankruptcy exemption laws which are designed to protect property. Some states, such as New York, only allow debtors to use their state exemption laws. Others, such as New Jersey, allow debtors to choose between either state or federal exemptions. Certain types of assets, such as IRAs and 401(k) accounts, are protected by federal law regardless of which exemption regime applies. Exemptions are rooted in public policy, with the idea being that it is unfair to allow consumers to shed unmanageable debt and be left with no property with which to start over. As a result, exemption laws designate certain types of property, up to specified dollar amounts, as exempt from the claims of creditors and the trustee. For example, Florida has an unlimited homestead exemption for long-term residents. This means that, in the event a Florida resident were to file for bankruptcy, their home would be exempt. They would not lose their primary residence regardless of its value. Similarly, the state of Illinois allows debtors to protect up to $2400 of equity in a car. This means that if you own a car worth $10,000 that has a loan of $8,000, you can file for bankruptcy in Illinois and keep your car. In this example, your $2000 of equity is under the maximum of $2400 allowed under the exemption statute. Even if the hypothetical changed so that there was $3,000 of equity in your automobile, you still would have the option to retain your car. Although bankruptcy trustees can liquidate property to access its nonexempt value, doing so requires a great deal of time and effort. In many cases, trustees are willing to enter into Cash Settlements with Debtors Rather Than Taking the Time To Sell Their Property. Exemption laws vary greatly by state, it is usually a good idea to meet with a local bankruptcy attorney to discuss how your property will be affected. Below, we organized a library of articles that touch on the subject of bankruptcy exemptions. We hope these articles will be a valuable resource as you weigh your options. Thank you for visiting the National Bankruptcy Forum.

Keep tax refund in bankruptcy?

How to Keep Your Tax Refund and File for Bankruptcy

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Are You Judgment Proof?

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Exemptions: What Can I Keep if I File Bankruptcy?

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Credit Card Lawsuit Defenses: What To Do When You’ve Been Sued

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Numbers And Finance

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Bankruptcy Attorneys Need To Know

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