If you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Missouri, you can protect some or all of your property with Missouri’s bankruptcy exemptions. The bankruptcy exemptions in Missouri also play a role in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Read on to learn about what property is covered by Missouri’s bankruptcy exemptions.
For a general overview of bankruptcy exemptions, how they work, and which ones you can use, visit the Bankruptcy Exemption topic page.
Missouri Requires Debtors to Use State Exemptions
Missouri is what is referred to as an “opt out” state, meaning Missouri has opted out of the federal exemption scheme. Therefore, in Missouri, you are not permitted to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions when you file bankruptcy in Missouri; you may only exempt property using the Missouri exemptions.
Although you can’t use the federal exemptions in Missouri, you may use any of the applicable federal non-bankruptcy exemptions. The federal non-bankruptcy exemptions protect property such as federal retirement and death benefits and veterans’ benefits.
Some federal courts have held that exemption statutes in Missouri must explicitly indicate that the property be “exempt” in order for the exemption to apply in bankruptcy. Benn v. Cole (In re Benn), 491 F.3d 811, 814 (8th Cir. 2007). Some courts have interpreted this to means that an exemption statute may not apply in bankruptcy if it does not specifically use the word “exempt.” Missouri courts have typically held otherwise, maintaining that Missouri statutes, regardless of whether they use the word “exempt,” do establish protection in bankruptcy. Russell v. Healthmont of Missouri, LLC, 348 SW 3d 784 (Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District 2011).
If you are unsure as to whether you can use a particular Missouri in bankruptcy, consult with a local bankruptcy attorney.
Married Couples May Double Missouri Exemptions
Married couples filing a joint bankruptcy in Missouri may double the exemption amount. This means that each spouse may claim the full exemption amount for any property in which the spouse has ownership interest. For example, if both spouses own a car and they file jointly, they can double the amount of their personal property exemptions to protect the car’s value. However, married couples in Missouri may not double the homestead exemption.
Common Missouri Exemptions
Below are some of the most common exemptions available under Missouri state law. Unless otherwise noted, all references are to the Missouri Revised Statutes.
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, 475
Property owned as a tenancy by the entirety is protected against the debts of only one spouse.
For more details about how the homestead exemption works in Missouri, see The Missouri Homestead Exemption.
Up to $750 per month in child support or alimony. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Up to $5,000 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
Disability or illness benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Up to $5,000 of fraternal benefit society benefits, if purchased more than six months prior to filing bankruptcy. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Stipulated insurance premiums. Mo. Rev. Stat. §377.330
Unmatured life insurance policy. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Assessment plan or life insurance proceeds. Mo. Rev. Stat. §377.090
If you file bankruptcy in Missouri, you can protect up to $3,000 of equity in motor vehicles. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
To learn more about how to exempt your motor vehicle under Missouri law, 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
Burial grounds, up to one acre or $100. Mo. Rev. Stat. §214.190
Health aids. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Up to $1,500 of value in a wedding ring and up to $500 of value in other jewelry. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Wrongful death awards for a person upon whom you were dependent. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Health savings accounts. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.040
Life Insurance Benefits
Teachers’ retirement benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. §169.090
ERISA-qualified benefits necessary for support (limited to payments being received). Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Firefighters’ retirement benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. §§87.090, 87.365, 87.485
Police department employees’ retirement benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. §§87.190, 87.353, 86.1430
Public officers and employees’ retirement benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. §§70.695, 70.755
State employees’ retirement benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. §105.540
Employee benefit spendthrift trust. Mo. Rev. Stat. §456.014
Retirement benefits belonging to employees of cities with populations of 100,000 or more persons. Mo. Rev. Stat. §71.207
Veterans’ benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Workers’ compensation. Mo. Rev. Stat. §287.260
Unemployment compensation. Mo. Rev. Stat. §§288,380, 513.430
Social Security benefits. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Public assistance. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Crime victim’s compensation. Mo. Rev. Stat. §595.025
Tools of the Trade
Up to $3,000 worth of tools, implements, and books of your trade or business. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430
Up to $1,250 of value in any property if you are the head of family, plus $350 for each of your children. Up to $600 in value if you are not the head of family. Mo. Rev. Stat. §§513.430, 513.440
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, which provides a link to the Missouri Revised Statutes.