If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Virginia, you can protect some or all of your property with Virginia’s bankruptcy exemptions. The bankruptcy exemptions in Virginia also play a role in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Read on to learn about what property is covered by Virginia’s bankruptcy exemptions.
For a general overview of bankruptcy exemptions, visit the Bankruptcy Exemptions topic page.
Virginia Requires Debtors to Use State Exemptions
Virginia has enacted legislation “opting out” of the federal bankruptcy exemptions. This means that bankruptcy filers in Virginia are only permitted to exempt property using Virigina exemption laws.
Married Couples May Double Virginia Exemptions
Married couples filing a joint bankruptcy in Virginia may “double” the exemption amount. The effect of this rule is that each spouse may claim the full exemption amount for his or her ownership interest in property.
Common Virginia Exemptions
Here are some of the most common exemptions available under Virginia law:
Cemeteries and Burial Funds
A debtor may exempt: 100% of a lot in a burial ground and any preneed funeral contract not to exceed $5,000. Certificates of membership in any burial society and any interest or rights in the certificate are exempt unless they are assigned for the purpose of funding or paying for a preneed funeral contract. Va Code Ann. §§ 34-26, 38.2-4021, 54.1-2823.
Claims for Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Actions
A debtor’s claims for personal injury and wrongful death actions and the proceeds derived from court awards or settlements are 100% exempt. Va. Code Ann. § 34-28.1.
Crime Victims’ Compensation
A debtor’s crime victims’ compensation is 100% exempt; this does not include expenses resulting from the injury that is the basis for the claim. Va. Code Ann. § 19.2-386.12.
Fraternal Benefit Society Benefits
All fraternal benefit society benefits are 100% exempt. Va. Code Ann. § 38.2-4118.
Health Savings Accounts
All funds in a health savings account or medical savings account are exempt. § 38.2-5604.
Homestead or Residential Property
The homestead exemption protects a certain amount of equity in a debtor’s home or principal residence. Under Virginia law, homeowners may exempt up to $5,000 of their home or other property covered by the homestead exemption. Debtors may add $500 to this amount for each of their dependents. Debtors aged 65 and older may exempt up to $10,000. Surviving spouses or minors are eligible for a $15,000 homestead exemption. Va. Code Ann. §§ 34-4, 34-18, 64.2-311.
For more details about how the homestead exemption works in Washington, see our Virginia Homestead Exemption page.
A debtor may exempt the following benefits:
- accident and sickness benefits
- funds deposited in continuing care provider accounts
- proceeds under an industrial sick benefit insurance policy, and
- benefits provided by cooperative nonprofit life benefit companies.
Va. Code Ann. §§ 38.2-3122, 38.2-3123, 38.2-3339, 38.2-3406, 38.2-3549, 38.2-3811, 38.2.4-904.1, 51-111.67:8.
Military equipment is 100% exempt. Va. Code Ann. § 44-96.
A debtor may exempt up to $6,000 in motor vehicles. Va. Code Ann. § 34-26.
To learn more about the Virginia Motor Vehicle exemption, visit our Virginia Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy page.
Pension and Retirement Benefits
Certain public employee retirement benefits are 100% exempt. Tax exempt retirement accounts are exempt as per the federal rules. For current amounts, see Your Retirement Plan in Bankruptcy.
A debtor may exempt the following personal property:
- up to $5,000 in household furnishings
- up to $5,000 for family portraits and heirlooms
- up to $3,000 for firearms
- up to $1,000 in wearing apparel
- all pets such as cats, dogs, birds, squirrels, rabbits, and other pets not kept or raised for sale or profit
- medically prescribed health aids
- prepaid tuition contracts
- the family bible, and
- wedding and engagement rings.
Va. Code Ann. §§ 23-38.81, 34-4, 34-18, 34-26, 34-27.
Crime victim's compensation (but not debt incurred for treatment of injury). 19.2-368.12.
Earned income tax credit and child tax credit. 34-26(9)
Public assistance is 100% exempt. This includes aid to the blind, aged, disabled, and general relief. Va. Code Ann. § 63.2-506.
Spousal and Child Support
All unpaid child or spousal support. 34-26(10).
Trade Implements ("Tools of the Trade")
A debtor may exempt up to $10,000 for trade implements. Va. Code Ann. §§ 34-26, 34-27.
Agricultural workers may exempt a pair of horses or mules with gear, one wagon or cart, one tractor to $3,000, 2 plows, one drag, harvest cradle, pitchfork, rake, fertilizer to $1,000. 34-27.
Trust, Escrows, and Deposit Accounts
Escrow funds are 100% exempt when used for a continuing care provider. Condominium sale escrow funds are also exempt. Va. Code Ann. § 38.2-4904.1 and 55.-79.95.
Unemployment compensation is 100% exempt. Va. Code Ann. § 60.2-600.
A debtor may exempt the following amount of his or her wages:
- 75% of his or her weekly disposable earnings; or
- 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage per week (whichever is greater).
Special rules apply for support obligations.
Va. Code Ann. § 34-29, 34-32, 34-33, 34-165, 55-165.
If you don't use all, or any, of the homestead exemption you can apply the unused amount to protect any type of personal property.
Disabled veterans may exempt up to $10,000 in cash or property. Va. Code Ann. § 34-4.1.
All workers compensation is 100% exempt except for support obligations. Va. Code Ann. § 65.1-82.
Confirming the Status of Virginia’s Bankruptcy Exemptions
Virginia’s exemption amounts are adjusted periodically. To make sure you have the most recent figures, be sure to check for any updates at the official website of the Virginia General Assembly at http://leg1.state.va.us/.
For additional information on how to research and find the latest exemption amounts, see our Legal Research Center.