Can I keep my jewelry if I file for bankruptcy in Louisiana?
You can exempt wedding and engagement rings in a Louisiana bankruptcy.
If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Louisiana, you can keep wedding and engagement rings up to $5,000 each. If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, however, you can keep all of your property, including your jewelry.
Keeping Jewelry in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Louisiana
In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, often called a reorganization bankruptcy, you enter into a repayment plan for three to five years. Your creditors get paid through the plan – some in full and some in part. Although a Chapter 13 plan requires a long commitment, the advantage is that you get to keep your property, including jewelry.
If you have very expensive jewelry however, that will probably affect how much you will be required to repay unsecured creditors.
Keeping Jewelry in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in Louisiana
Chapter 7 bankruptcy works differently. In Chapter 7, you must give up certain items of property. The bankruptcy trustee sells this property and uses the proceeds to repay (at least in part) your unsecured creditors.
Louisiana Bankruptcy Exemptions
Not all of your property is up for grabs, however. Louisiana (and all of the other states) has enacted laws that protect certain types of property. These laws are called exemptions. Some property is exempt no matter what the value, and other property is exempt only up to a dollar amount. The idea behind exemptions is that someone filing for bankruptcy should not be stripped of basic things needed for living – like shelter, clothing, furniture, a car, and the like. (Learn more about how bankruptcy exemptions work.)
Some states allow you to choose between the state exemption system and another set, called the federal bankruptcy exemptions. But Louisiana is not one of these states. If you file for bankruptcy in Louisiana, you must use the Louisiana bankruptcy exemptions.
Using the Louisiana Bankruptcy Exemptions to Keep Jewelry
In Louisiana, you can keep jewelry using the below exemptions. If you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy, you can double these amounts.
Wedding and engagement ring exemption. In Louisiana you can exempt wedding or engagement rings up to a value of $5,000 per ring, as long as the ring is worn by either the debtor or the debtor’s spouse.
Clothing exemption. Louisiana allows you to exempt your clothing to an unlimited value. Some bankruptcy courts in other states have allowed bankruptcy filers to keep a modestly-priced watch under a clothing exemption. Check with a local bankruptcy attorney to see if you might be able to keep a watch or other jewelry under Louisana’s clothing exemption.
How to Value Jewelry in Bankruptcy
The value of your jewelry for exemption purposes is the amount you would have to pay to replace each item with a used item of similar age and in similar condition. There are various methods of determining the replacement value, but for expensive jewelry you will almost always need an appraisal. (Learn more about how to value personal property in bankruptcy.)
Other Ways to Keep Jewelry in a Louisiana Bankruptcy
If you want to keep nonexempt items of jewelry, the trustee may accept other items of exempt property in exchange for the jewelry. The trustee would then sell these items instead of your jewelry to repay your creditors.
Similarly, if you have some cash, you may be able to reimburse the bankruptcy trustee for the value of the jewelry you want to keep. Again, the trustee would use this money (instead of selling the jewelry) to repay unsecured creditors.