Updated May 20, 2016
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.
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.
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.
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 2014.
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 $58,255. If you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy, you can double the exemption, bringing it to $116,510. §15-41-30(A)(1) (Learn more in The South Carolina Homestead Exemption.)
In South Carolina, you can exempt the following types of personal property. §15-41-30(A)
In South Carolina, you can exempt up to $5,825 of equity in a car, van, motorcycle, truck, SUV, or other motor vehicle. (To learn more, see The South Carolina Motor Vehicle Exemption.)
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 $1,283,025. (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)
General assembly members. §9-9-180
Judges, solicitors. §9-8-190
Police officers. §9-11-270
Public employees. §9-1-1680
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
Implements, books, and other tools of your trade or profession, up to $1,750 §15-41-30(A)(6)
The following life and other insurance are exempt:
Alimony and child support. §15-41-30(A)(11)(d)
Property of a business partnership. §33-41-720
In South Carolina, you can use unused exemption amounts to exempt up to $5,825 of any type of property. §15-41-30(A)(7)
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.