Updated October 28, 2016
If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Washington, you can protect some or all of your property with Washington’s bankruptcy exemptions. The bankruptcy exemptions in Washington also play a role in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Read on to learn about what property is covered by Washington’s bankruptcy exemptions.
For a general overview of bankruptcy exemptions, visit the Bankruptcy Exemption topic page.
Washington is one of the few states that allows debtors to choose between state and federal bankruptcy exemptions. This means that bankruptcy filers may examine both sets of exemptions and select the set that better protects their assets.
Here are some of the most common exemptions available under Washington law:
Bank deposits are exempt up to $200 if a creditor is a state agency; $500 for all other debts. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 6.15.010.
Building materials are exempt except for debts due for the purchase of those materials. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 60.04.201.
Burial lots, if used exclusively for burial purposes, are 100% exempt. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 68.24.220.
Child support payments. 6.15.010(1)(c)(iv)
The homestead exemption protects a certain amount of equity in a debtor’s home or principal residence. Under Washington law, homeowners may exempt up to $125,000 of their home or other property covered by the homestead exemption. If you are not living in the home, you must file a homestead declaration.
You can also protect up to $15,000 of unimproved property, but you must first file a homestead declaration.
For more details about how the homestead exemption works in Washington, visit The Washington Homestead Exemption.
A debtor may exempt insurance proceeds on exempt property, life insurance proceeds, disability insurance proceeds, and group life insurance proceeds. You can also exempt annuity contract proceeds to $3,000 per month. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § § 6.15.030, 48.18.400, 48.18.410, 48.18.420, 48.18.430.
A debtor may exempt up to $3,250 in one motor vehicle that is used for personal transportation or to maintain employment. A married couple may exempt two motor vehicles not to exceed $6,500. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 6.15.010(1)(c)(iii).
To learn more about the Washington Motor Vehicle exemption, visit The Washington Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy.
A debtor may exempt pension benefits for federal employees, teachers, city employees, law enforcement officials, firefighters, state patrol officers, and volunteer firefighters. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § § 6.15.020, 41.26.053, 41.28.200. 41.32.052, 41.24.240, 41.44.240, 43.43.310.
Tax exempt retirement accounts (such as 401ks and IRAS) are exempt as per the federal rules. For current amounts, see Your Retirement Plan in Bankruptcy.
You may exempt the following personal property:
Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 6.15.010.
Work release earnings in the possession of an employer or prison officer are exempt. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 72.65.060.
General assistance and public benefits; unemployment compensation; worker's compensation. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § § 74.04.280, 50.40.020, 51.32.040.
A debtor may exempt up to $10,000 in tools, instruments, and materials used to carry on his or her trade. Special exemptions are available for farmers, physicians, attorneys, and clergymen. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 6.15.010.
Spendthrift trusts and other properties are 100% exempt. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 6.15.010.
A debtor may exempt the following amount of his or her wages (except to enforce court awarded support orders):
Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 6.27.150.
You may exempt $3,000 worth of any type of personal property. But of that $3,000, you may not exempt more than $1,500 total of cash, bank deposits, bonds, stocks, and securities.
Washington’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 Washington State Legislature at www.leg.wa.gov.
For a list of other common exemptions in Washington, see Washington Bankruptcy Exemptions.
For additional information on how to research and find the latest exemption amounts, see our Legal Research Center.