Missouri Bankruptcy Exemptions

If you file for bankruptcy in Missouri, you can protect certain property with Missouri's bankruptcy exemptions.

If you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri, you can protect some or all of your property with Missouri’s bankruptcy exemptions. The exemptions also play a role in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Read on to learn about the property that you can protect.

Missouri Requires Debtors to Use State Exemptions

Missouri is an “opt out” state, meaning that in Missouri, you can only exempt property using the Missouri exemptions, not the  federal bankruptcy exemptions. However, you can use the applicable  federal non-bankruptcy exemptions  to protect assets such as federal retirement benefits, death benefits, and veterans’ benefits.

In the past, Missouri courts have disagreed about the applicability of certain laws in bankruptcy. Although some federal courts have held that exemption statutes must explicitly state that property is “exempt” before an exemption will apply, Missouri courts have typically held that the "exempt" reference isn't necessary.  Benn v. Cole (In re Benn), 491 F.3d 811, 814 (8th  Cir. 2007);  Russell v. Healthmont of Missouri, LLC, 348 SW 3d 784 (Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District 2011).

If you are unsure whether you can use a particular exemption, consult with a local bankruptcy attorney.

Married Couples Can Double Missouri Exemptions

Married couples filing a joint bankruptcy in Missouri can double most exemption amounts. For example, if jointly-filing spouses own a car together, they can double the motor vehicle exemption to protect the car’s value. However, married couples in Missouri cannot double the homestead exemption.

Common Missouri Exemptions

Below are some of the most common exemptions available under Missouri state law (as of January 2017). Unless otherwise noted, all references are to the Missouri Revised Statutes (Mo. Rev. Stat.).

Homestead or Residential Property

The homestead exemption protects equity in your home. In Missouri, you can exempt up to $15,000 of equity in the real estate in which you live or will live, or up to $5,000 of equity in a mobile home in which you live. Joint owners may not double the exemption. Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 513.430.1(6), 513.475

Property owned as a tenancy by the entirety is protected against the debts of only one spouse (special conditions apply). Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 513.475, 513.427  

For more details about how the homestead exemption works in Missouri, see  The Missouri Homestead Exemption.

Domestic Support

Up to $750 per month in support, alimony, or maintenance. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(d)

Insurance Benefits

Up to $150,000 of life insurance dividends, loan or cash surrender value, and interest, if purchased more than six months prior to filing bankruptcy. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(8)

Disability or illness benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(c)

Unmatured life insurance policy. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(7)

Motor Vehicle

If you file bankruptcy in Missouri, you can protect up to $3,000 of equity in a motor vehicle. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(5)

Example. Jolene owns a 2008 Toyota Camry worth $12,000. She owes the dealer $10,000, leaving $2,000 of equity. She can file for bankruptcy in Missouri and use the $3,000 motor vehicle exemption to fully protect her vehicle.

To learn more, see  The Missouri Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy.

Personal Property

Up to $3,000 of value in furniture, clothing, books, crops, appliances, animals, and instruments. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(1)

Burial grounds, up to one acre or $100. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 214.190

Health aids. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(9)

Up to $1,500 of value in a wedding ring and up to $500 of value in other jewelry. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(2)

Wrongful death awards to the extent reasonably necessary for support. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(11)

Health savings accounts. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(f)

Life Insurance Benefits

Teachers’ and school employee retirement benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat.   § § 169.090, 169.240, 169.380, 169.520, 169.587, 169.690, 169.780

ERISA-qualified benefits necessary for support (limited to payments being received). Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(f)

Firefighters’ retirement benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat.   § § 86.563, 87.090, 87.365, 87.485

Police and highway patrol retirement benefits § § 86.190, 86.353, 86.493, 86.563, 86.780, 104.250

Public officers and employees’ retirement benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 70.695, 70.755, 71.207

State employees’ retirement benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 104.540

Public Benefits

Veterans’ benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(b)

Workers’ compensation. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 287.260

Unemployment compensation. Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 288,380, 513.430

Social Security benefits and public assistance. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(a)

Tools of the Trade

Up to $3,000 worth of tools, implements, and books of your trade or business. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(4)

Wildcard

Up to $600 in value of any property.  Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(3)

If you are the head of your family, an additional $1,250 of value in any property, plus another $350 for each of your children. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.440. (Learn more in  The Missouri Wildcard Exemption in Bankruptcy.)

Confirming Missouri’s Bankruptcy Exemptions

Missouri’s exemption amounts are adjusted periodically. To ensure that you have the most recent figures, be sure to check for any updates at the website of the  Missouri General Assembly.

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