South Carolina Bankruptcy Exemptions

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

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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. If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the South Carolina bankruptcy exemptions may reduce the total amount you must pay your unsecured creditors. (Learn how bankruptcy exemptions work in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.)

Below you can learn what property the South Carolina bankruptcy exemptions protect, whether you can use the federal exemptions in South Carolina, what happens to exemptions if you are married and filing jointly, and more.

You Cannot Use the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions in South Carolina

Some states allow you to choose between using 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 may use any of the federal non-bankruptcy exemptions. The federal non-bankruptcy exemptions protect property such as federal retirement accounts and veterans’ benefits. You can use both the federal non-bankruptcy exemptions and the state exemptions; you don’t have to choose between the two lists.

Married Couples May Double the South Carolina Bankruptcy Exemptions

Unless otherwise stated, if you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy petition, you can double the amount of the South Carolina bankruptcy exemption if you both own the property. If only one spouse owns the property, then you cannot double the amount. 

Common South Carolina Bankruptcy Exemptions

Below are some of the most commonly used bankruptcy exemptions. The statute citations, unless otherwise noted, are to the Code of Laws of South Carolina. The below exemption amounts were adjusted for inflation in 2012.

Homestead Exemption

In South Carolina, you can exempt equity in your home, condo, mobile home, co-op, or other real estate that you use as a residence in an amount up to $56,150. If you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy, you can double the exemption, bringing it to $112,300. §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)

  • Animals, appliances, books, clothing, crops, furniture, household goods, and musical instruments to a total of $4,500
  • Burial plot up to $50,000, if you don’t use the homestead exemption
  • Cash and other liquid assets to $5,350 if you don’t use the homestead exemption
  • College investment program trust fund (§59-2-140)
  • Health aids
  • Jewelry, up to $1,075
  • Personal injury and wrongful death recoveries for a person that you depended on for support

Motor Vehicle Exemption

In South Carolina, you can exempt up to $5,350 of equity in a car, van, motorcycle, truck, SUV, or other 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 to $1,245,475. (This amount 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 $1,600. §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 is limited to $4,500. §15-41-30(A)  
  • Group life insurance proceeds, up to a $50,000 value. §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 $4,500. §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 $5,350 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 may 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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