If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Massachusetts, you can protect some or all of your property with Massachusetts’s bankruptcy exemptions. The bankruptcy exemptions in Massachusetts also play a role in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Read on to learn about what property is covered by Massachusetts’s bankruptcy exemptions.
For a general overview of bankruptcy exemptions, visit the Bankruptcy Exemption topic page.
Massachusetts Allows Debtors to Choose Between State and Federal Exemptions
Massachusetts is one of the few states that allow debtors to choose between state and federal bankruptcy exemptions. This means that bankruptcy filers may examine both sets of exemptions and elect the exemptions that better protect their assets. (To learn which set of exemptions will benefit you most, see Should I Use the Massachusetts or Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions?)
Common Massachusetts Exemptions
Here are some of the most common exemptions available under Massachusetts law.
Cemeteries and Burial Property
All rights of burial and tombs are exempt. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 235, § 34.
If you must move from your property because of eminent domain, all moving expenses are exempt. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 79, § 6A.
Fraternal Benefit Society Benefits
All fraternal benefit society benefits are exempt prior to and after payment. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 176, § 22.
Homestead or Residential Property
The homestead exemption protects a certain amount of equity in your home or principal residence. If you file a “Declaration of Homestead” with the Registry of Deeds, you may exempt up to $500,000 in the value of your homestead. If you do not file the Declaration of Homestead with the Registry of Deeds, you may exempt up to $125,000.
If you an elderly or disabled homeowner, you may be eligible for an exemption up to $500,000 regardless of whether a Declaration of Homestead is filed. If you and another individual both qualify for elderly or disabled homestead protection, you may be eligible for an aggregate exemption up to $1,000,000.
(In re Peirce, 467 B.R. 260 (Bankr. D. Mass))
If you rent your principal residence, you may exempt an amount of money for each rental period, not to exceed $2,500 per month. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 188, §§ 1-14; ch. 235, § 34.
For more details about how the homestead exemption works in Massachusetts, see The Massachusetts Homestead Exemption.
You may exempt up to $400 per week in disability insurance benefits.
The proceeds payable by health care provider self-insurance funds are 100% exempt.
Life insurance policies and annuity contracts to a spouse or dependent of the insured are 100% exempt. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 175, §§ 110A; 175-36B, 119A, 125, 126, 132C and 135; ch. 175, § 15. (In re Sloss, 279 B.R. 6 (Bankr. D. Mass 2002))
You may exempt up to $7,500 in one motor vehicle used for personal transportation or to maintain employment. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 235; § 34.
If the motor vehicle is owned or substantially used by a handicapped person or a person over the age of 60, you may exempt up to $15,000 in the vehicle.
To learn more about the Massachusetts Motor Vehicle exemption, visit The Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy.
Massachusetts has adopted the provision of the Uniform Partnership Act that exempts a partner’s interest in specific partnership property. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 235, § 34.
Pension and Retirement Benefits
You may exempt pension and retirement benefits except such benefits that remain subject to claims under support orders. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 32, § 19; ch. 168, §§ 41 and 44; ch. 170, § 35; ch. 171, § 84; and ch. 246, § 28.
You may exempt the following personal property:
- necessary clothing and beds for a debtor and his or her family
- $15,000 in additional necessary household furniture
- $1,225 in jewelry
- one heating unit
- $500 per month for utilities
- $500 in books
- 2 cows, 12 sheep, 2 swine, and 4 tons of hay
- $600 in provisions
- military uniforms
- one pew occupied by the debtor or the debtor’s family in a house of public worship
- one sewing machine not to exceed $300 in value, and
- $100 shares in a cooperative.
Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 235, § 34; ch. 246, § 28.
All public assistance is 100% exempt. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 118, § 10; ch. 235, § 34.
You may exempt $5,000 in tools, implements, and fixtures; $5,000 in stock-in-trade; and $1,500 in fishing gear if it is used in your business. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 235, § 34.
You may exempt 100% of all unemployment compensation except for certain support obligations. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 151A, § 36.
All veteran’s benefits are 100% exempt. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 115, § 5.
You may exempt the following amount of your wages:
- 85% of your gross earnings, or
- 50 times the Massachusetts minimum hourly wage per week (whichever is greater).
Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 115, § 5.
$1,000 plus up to $5,000 of unused autombile, tools of the trade, and household furniture exemptions. Mass. Ann. Laws. ch. 235, § 34(17). (To learn more, see The Massachusetts Wildcard Exemption.)
All workers compensation is 100% exempt except for certain obligations to state agencies and support obligations. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 152, § 47.
Confirming the Status of Massachusetts’s Bankruptcy Exemptions
Massachusetts’s exemption amounts are adjusted periodically. To make sure you have the most recent figures, be sure to check for any updates at the official website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at www.malegislature.gov.
For additional information on how to research and find the latest exemption amounts, see our Legal Research Center.