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 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 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.
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.).
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.
Up to $750 per month in support, alimony, or maintenance. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(d)
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)
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.
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)
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
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)
Up to $3,000 worth of tools, implements, and books of your trade or business. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(4)
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.)
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.