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

You can use the federal bankruptcy exemptions or the Oregon exemptions to keep jewelry, up to a certain dollar amount, in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

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

Keeping Jewelry in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in the Oregon

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 Oregon

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.

Oregon Bankruptcy Exemptions

Not all of your property is up for grabs, however. The Oregon 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.)

In Oregon, you can choose to use either the Oregon bankruptcy exemptions or another set of exemptions called the federal bankruptcy exemptions (17 states plus the District of Columbia also allow you to use the federal exemptions). Whichever set you choose, you must stick with it -- you cannot mix and match from each set. For this reason, it’s important to review all of the exemptions in each system. You wouldn’t want to pick one system in order to keep jewelry, only to lose your house. (Review the Oregon bankruptcy exemptions and the federal bankruptcy exemptions.)

Keeping Jewelry Under the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions

There are several provisions of the federal bankruptcy exemption system that you can use to keep your jewelry. If you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy, you can double these amounts.

  • Jewelry exemption. You can keep up to $1,550 of your jewelry.
  • Wildcard exemption. You can keep up to $1,225 of any type of property, including your jewelry. If you don’t want to use the wildcard to protect other property, you can put the full $1,225 towards your jewelry.
  • Unused homestead exemption.  If you don’t use the homestead exemption, or only use part of it, you can use up to $11,500 of the remaining amount for anything you want, including your jewelry. The federal homestead exemption is $22,975.

Keeping Jewelry Under the Oregon Bankruptcy Exemptions 

If you use the Oregon exemptions, you can protect up to $1,800 total of your clothing, jewelry, or other personal items. Or. Rev. Stat. §18.345(1)(b). The exemption amount applies to all of these items combined. So, if you choose to use $1,000 of this exemption to keep a fur coat, you’ll have $800 left for your other clothing and jewelry. If you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy petition, you can double this amount.

In many states, you can use a wildcard exemption (an exemption that allows you to apply a certain dollar amount to any type of property) to keep jewelry. Although Oregon does have a $400 wildcard exemption, you can only use it to exempt property that is not already covered by another personal property exemption. Since jewelry has its own exemption in Oregon, you would not be able to cover additional items of jewelry with the wildcard 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 an Oregon 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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