Can I keep my jewelry if I file for bankruptcy in Ohio?

You can keep jewelry, wedding rings, and watches up to a certain dollar amount if you file for bankruptcy in Ohio.

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Whether you can keep jewelry, watches, and wedding rings in Ohio depends on what type of bankruptcy you file (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13), how much the jewelry is worth, and whether you need to protect other assets as well.

Keeping Jewelry in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Ohio

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 Ohio

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.

Ohio Bankruptcy Exemptions

Not all of your property is up for grabs, however. Ohio (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 Ohio is not one of these states. If you file for bankruptcy in Ohio, you must use the Ohio bankruptcy exemptions.

Keeping Jewelry Under the Ohio Bankruptcy Exemptions 

In Ohio, you can keep jewelry using the below exemptions. If you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy, you can double these amounts.

  • Jewelry exemption. You can keep jewelry up to an aggregate worth of $1,450.  There’s one caveat, however: Your total personal property exemption for things like books, clothing, and household goods is $11,525.  So if you use $11,525 to protect your furniture, you won’t have anything left over to protect your jewelry.
  • Wearing apparel exemption. Ohio lets you keep wearing apparel up to $525 per item (subject to the same overall personal property exemption of $11,525, discussed above). Some courts across the nation have ruled that moderately-priced watches are “wearing apparel,” so you might be able to exempt a watch under this category.
  • Wildcard exemption. You can protect up to $1,150 of any type of property. You may use some or all of this to exempt jewelry.

How to Value Jewelry in Bankruptcy

The value of your jewelry for exemption purposes is the amount you would have to pay, on the date you file for bankruptcy, 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 Ohio 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.

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