You probably know that federal bankruptcy exemptions protect property in bankruptcy. But do you know whether you can use the federal exemptions if you decide to file for bankruptcy?
The simple answer is your state decides whether you can use your state's bankruptcy exemptions or if you can pick the federal bankruptcy exemptions instead. Here's what you'll need to know to get started:
Once you know your options, you'll list everything you own and, if you have a choice, select the exemption set that will cover the assets you'd like to keep.
Currently, the following states allow filers to choose between state and federal bankruptcy exemptions. If your state gives you a choice, you must pick one list or the other. You can't mix and match items from both lists.
Filers who use state exemptions can also use federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.
The links above will take you to a complete state bankruptcy guide. If you don't reside in one of these states, you're limited to your own state's exemptions, and you'll find state exemptions here.
Although exemptions apply in Chapters 7 and 13, what happens to "nonexempt property" or assets not protected by an exemption will depend on the bankruptcy chapter.
If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you'll keep all "exempt" property covered by a bankruptcy exemption and lose any nonexempt assets. In Chapter 13, you'll keep all your property, but you'll pay your creditors for nonexempt assets through the Chapter 13 plan.
You'll find commonly-used federal exemptions below. If you are a married couple filing jointly, you can double the exemption amounts. The amounts apply to cases filed between April 1, 2022, and April 1, 2025.
You can protect $27,900 of equity in your principal residence under federal exemptions. (11 USC § 522(d)(1).) You must live in the home to use the homestead exemption.
The residential property can be:
The homestead exemption isn't available to protect the equity in investment or rental properties.
Here are some commonly-used federal "personal property" exemptions (personal property is everything other than real estate):
Retirement accounts that are exempt from taxation are fully exempt in bankruptcy. However, the federal bankruptcy exemption limit for IRAs and Roth IRAS is $1,512,350. Learn more about your retirement plan in bankruptcy.
You can apply the federal wildcard exemption to any property you own. Currently, $1,475 plus $13,950 of any unused portion of your homestead exemption is available to exempt any property of your choosing. (11 USC § 522(d)(5).) To learn more, see the Wildcard Exemption.
Did you know Nolo has been making the law easy for over fifty years? It's true—and we want to make sure you find what you need. Below you'll find more articles explaining how bankruptcy works. And don't forget that our bankruptcy homepage is the best place to start if you have other questions!
Our Editor's Picks for You
More Like This
Articles You Might Enjoy
Helpful Bankruptcy Sites
We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets in bankruptcy is by hiring a local bankruptcy lawyer.
Updated October 5, 2023