Does the bankruptcy trustee decide if my property is exempt?

The bankruptcy trustee can object to your claim of exemption, but only the court can deny your exemption claim.

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When you file for bankruptcy, you file your schedules and statements, listing all of your property and identifying the property which your are claiming as exempt and the law which provides for that exemption. The trustee and any creditor can file an objection to your claim of exempt property. There are any number of reasons why they might object. For example, the trustee or a creditor might: 

  • disagree with your valuation of the property (if the exemption is limited in value)
  • disagree with your interpretation of the exemption laws, or
  • challenge your choice of available exemptions (state vs. federal, or which state).

To learn more, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area.

Hearings on Objections to Exemptions

Once the trustee or a creditor files an objection, it must serve you with a copy and notify you of the date and time of the hearing. This gives you the opportunity to have the matter heard by the court.At the hearing, you can present evidence in support of your exemption claim and argue your position.

Depending on the local rules in your area, you may file a written response to the objection or just show up at the hearing. If you believe you will need time to present evidence or witnesses, it would be a good idea to contact the courtroom deputy for the judge in your case to make sure the matter is set as an evidentiary hearing and to find out how much time you will be given to present your case.

Settling With the Trustee

You can also use the time between the filing of the objection and the hearing date to work out a settlement with the trustee. If the objection involves an unresolved issue of law in your district, this might be a less risky approach. But if you can’t reach an agreement, you have researched the issue, and you believe you are correct, you can wait for the judge’s decision.

To learn more about what the bankruptcy trustee can and cannot do in your case, see our Bankruptcy Trustee area.

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