The Hawaii Homestead Exemption

If you file bankruptcy in Hawaii, up to $30,000 of the equity you own in your home is protected from creditors. Here's how it works.

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In bankruptcy, a homestead exemption protects equity in your home. Here you’ll find specific information about the homestead exemption in Hawaii.

For information about how the homestead exemption works in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, see The Homestead Exemption in Bankruptcy. For more articles on exemptions, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area.

The Hawaii Homestead Exemption Amount

Under the Hawaii exemption system, homeowners may exempt up to $20,000 of their home or other property covered by the homestead exemption.  If you are the head of a family or 65 years or older you can exempt up to $30,000.  However, the property cannot be larger than one acre.

Doubling for Married Couples

Hawaii does not allow married couples to double the amount of the homestead exemption.  Some states allow married couples twice the amount of the homestead exemption if they are filing a joint bankruptcy.  But you cannot double the homestead exemption in Hawaii.

(There may be other advantages to filing a joint bankruptcy. To learn more , see Nolo's section on Bankruptcy Options for Married Couples.)

The Scope of the Hawaii Homestead Exemption

In Hawaii the homestead exemption applies to real property, including your home and condominium.  You must reside in the property.

The homestead exemption also applies to proceeds from the sale of your house for up to six months after the sale.

Can You Use the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions in Hawaii?

In Hawaii you can use either the state exemption system or the federal bankruptcy exemption system (but you can’t pick and choose different exemptions from each system – you have to use all state exemptions or all federal exemptions.)

The federal bankruptcy homestead exemption amount is $22,975. The exemption may be used for homes, condos, co-ops, mobile homes, and burial plots. Married couples may double this exemption. You can find the federal bankruptcy homestead exemption at 11 U.S.C. §522(d)(1) and (5).

 (To learn more about which state exemptions apply to you, see Which Exemptions Can You Use in Bankruptcy?)

Homestead Declarations

In Hawaii the homestead exemption is automatic – you don’t have to file a homestead declaration in order to claim the homestead exemption in bankruptcy.

Real Property Held as Tenancy in the Entirety in Hawaii

If property is held as a tenancy in the entirety, it means the property is jointly owned by a married couple as a single marital entity, not as individuals.

Property held as a tenancy in the entirety is usually exempt and cannot be sold to satisfy individual debts of only one spouse.  So if one spouse files bankruptcy alone to discharge his or her own debts, then any property including your home, held as a tenancy in the entirety is safe.  However, if you have joint debts, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee may be able to sell your property to pay your creditors if you cannot exempt all of your equity.

Finding the Hawaii Homestead Exemption Statute

Hawaii’s homestead exemption is found in the Hawaii state statutes at Hawaii Revised Statutes § 651-91, § 651-92, and § 651-96. To learn how to find state statutes, check out Nolo’s Laws and Legal Research area.

Periodic Adjustments of Hawaii Exemption Amounts

Hawaii’s exemption amounts are updated periodically to keep up with inflation.  Prior to filing bankruptcy, check the current amounts to make sure you have enough exemptions to cover all your property.

by: , Attorney

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