South Carolina Bankruptcy Exemptions

Find out what property you can keep if you file for bankruptcy in South Carolina.

April 5, 2017

If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in South Carolina, the South Carolina bankruptcy exemptions can help you keep some or all of your property. Exemptions also help determine how much money you'll pay in a Chapter 13 repayment plan. Below you'll find exemptions frequently used in both types of South Carolina bankruptcies.

(Learn how bankruptcy exemptions work in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.)

Filers Can't Use Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions in South Carolina

Some states allow you to choose between the state exemptions and a list of federal bankruptcy exemptions. In South Carolina, however, you do not have this choice; you must use the South Carolina bankruptcy exemptions.

Although you can’t use the federal exemptions in South Carolina, you can use any of the federal non-bankruptcy exemptions to supplement the state exemptions. The federal non-bankruptcy exemptions protect property such as federal retirement accounts and veterans’ benefits.

Common South Carolina Bankruptcy Exemptions

Below are some of the most commonly used bankruptcy exemptions. The statute citations, unless otherwise noted, are to the South Carolina Code of Laws. The listed exemption amounts were adjusted for inflation in 2016. They're expected to change again on July 1, 2018.

Homestead Exemption

In South Carolina, you can exempt equity in your home, condo, mobile home, co-op, or some other type of real estate that you use as a residence in an amount up to $59,100. If you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy, you can double the exemption, bringing it to $118,200. § 15-41-30(A)(1) (Learn more in The South Carolina Homestead Exemption.)

Personal Property

In South Carolina, you can exempt the following types of personal property. §§ 15-41-30(A)(1)-(8)

  • Animals, appliances, books, clothing, crops, furniture, household goods, and musical instruments to a total of $4,725
  • Burial plot up to $59,100, if you don’t use the homestead exemption
  • Cash and other liquid assets to $5,900 if you don’t use the homestead exemption
  • Health aids
  • Jewelry, up to $1,175
  • Personal injury and wrongful death recoveries for a person that you depended on for support.
You can also exempt a college investment program trust fund. § 59-2-140

Motor Vehicle Exemption

In South Carolina, you can exempt up to $5,900 of equity in a car, van, motorcycle, truck, SUV, or some other type of motor vehicle. (To learn more, see The South Carolina Motor Vehicle Exemption.)

Pensions

Tax exempt retirement accounts (including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, and defined benefit plans). 11 U.S.C. § 522.

IRAS and Roth IRAs. (The amount you can claim is adjusted every three years. For the most recent figure, see Your Retirement Account in Bankruptcy.) 11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(C)(n); § 15-41-30(A)(13)

Erisa-qualified benefits; your share of a pension plan fund. § 5-41-30(10)(E), (14)

Firefighters. § 9-13-230

General assembly members. § 9-9-180

Judges, solicitors. § 9-8-190

Police officers. § 9-11-270

Public employees. § 9-1-1680

Public Benefits

General relief; Aid to the elderly, blind, or disabled. § 43-5-190

Local public assistance. § 15-41-30(A)(11)

Social Security. § 15-41-30(A)(11)

Unemployment compensation. § 15-41-30(A)(11)

Veteran’s benefits. § 15-41-30(A)(11)

Workers' compensation. § 42-9-360

Tools of Trade

Implements, books, and other tools of your trade or profession, up to $1,775 § 15-41-30(A)(6)

Life Insurance

The following life and other insurance are exempt:

  • Accident, disability, or illness benefits. § 15-41-30(A)(11); § 38-63-40(D)
  • Proceeds and cash surrender values of life insurance which are for the express benefit of the insured’s spouse, children, or dependents (as long as the beneficiary is not the estate). § 38-63-40(A). However, if the insured bought the policy within two years of the bankruptcy filing, then the exemption amount is limited (check statute for current amount). §15-41-30(A)
  • Group life insurance proceeds, up to a particular amount (check statute for current amount). § 38-63-40(A)
  • Any life insurance or annuity benefits where in the contract the insurer holds them exempt from creditors. § 38-63-40(B)
  • Life insurance benefits you receive because the insured died. § 38-63-50
  • Fraternal benefit society benefits. § 58-37A-18
  • An unmatured life insurance contract (other than a credit insurance policy). Any dividend, interest or loan value of an unmatured life insurance contract, up to $4,725. § 15-41-30(A)(8), (9)

Miscellaneous

Alimony and child support. § 15-41-30(A)(11)(d)

Property of a business partnership. § 33-41-720

Wildcard Exemption

In South Carolina, you can use unused exemption amounts to exempt up to $5,900 of any type of property. § 15-41-30(A)(7)

Confirming the South Carolina Bankruptcy Exemptions

This list includes some of the more commonly used South Carolina bankruptcy exemptions. There might be others. In addition, South Carolina periodically updates its exemption amounts and sometimes adds new exemptions. To find the most current laws, visit the Code of Laws of South Carolina portion of the South Carolina legislature’s website. Be forewarned, however, that the exemptions are found in various parts of the code. To save time and ensure you’ve got the correct information, consider consulting with a South Carolina bankruptcy attorney.

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