Can I keep my wedding ring and jewelry if I file for bankruptcy in Wyoming?
Wyoming has an exemption for wedding rings in bankruptcy, but not for other types of jewelry.
Wyoming allows you to keep your wedding ring, up to a certain value, if you file for bankruptcy. Whether you can keep other types of jewelry depends on what type of bankruptcy you file (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13). If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can generally keep your jewelry. But if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you’ll only be able to keep jewelry (other than your wedding ring) if you reimburse the bankruptcy trustee for its value.
Keeping Jewelry in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in Wyoming
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 wedding rings, jewelry, and watches.
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 Wyoming
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.
Wyoming Bankruptcy Exemptions
Not all of your property is up for grabs, however. Wyoming (and each 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 Wyoming is not one of these states. If you file for bankruptcy in Wyoming, you must use the Wyoming bankruptcy exemptions.
Wyoming Exemption for Wedding Rings
In Wyoming, if you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy you can keep up to $2,000 worth of your clothing and wedding rings. If you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy, you can protect up to $4,000 of this property.
Keep in mind that these amounts apply to all of your clothing and wedding rings in the aggregate. So if you are married filing jointly and want to protect $2,000 worth of clothing, you’ll have $2,000 left to protect wedding rings.
You Cannot Exempt Other Jewelry in a Wyoming Bankruptcy
Wyoming’s exemption statute specifically states that you cannot use the clothing and wedding ring exemption to protect other types of jewelry. And Wyoming does not have a wildcard exemption (a type of exemption that allows you to exempt a certain dollar amount in the property of your choosing). This means that if you file for Chapter 7, you cannot exempt jewelry other than your wedding ring.
How to Value Your Wedding Ring in Bankruptcy
The value of your wedding ring for exemption purposes is the amount you would have to pay, on the date you file for bankruptcy, to replace the ring with one of similar age and in similar condition. There are various methods of determining the replacement value, but for an expensive wedding ring you will almost always need an appraisal. (Learn more about how to value personal property in bankruptcy.)
Other Ways to Keep Jewelry in a Wyoming 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.