Missouri Bankruptcy Exemptions

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

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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.

Domestic Support

Up to $750 per month in child support or alimony. Mo. Rev. Stat. §513.430

Insurance Benefits

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

Motor Vehicle

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.

Personal Property

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

Public Benefits

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

Wildcard

Up to $600 in value of any property.

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. §§513.430, 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.

by: , Attorney

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