Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions

Here's a list of the most common bankruptcy exemptions in Florida.

Like all states, Florida has a set of exemptions you can use to protect some property when filing for bankruptcy, such as a home, car, and retirement account. In this article, you'll learn:

  • how long you must live in Florida before using its exemptions
  • whether Florida exemptions will protect all of your property, and
  • what will happen to any property you can’t exempt.

If you have more questions, read How Bankruptcy Works in Florida. Not only will you find answers, but it includes helpful checklists and a link to an interactive bankruptcy quiz. Or, try the start-to-finish bankruptcy guide, What You Need to Know to File for Bankruptcy.

How Florida's Bankruptcy Exemptions Work

You can protect property covered by an exemption regardless of whether you file for Chapter 7 or 13. But each chapter treats nonexempt property—things not covered by an exemption—differently.

  • In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee sells nonexempt property and distributes the proceeds to creditors.
  • In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you keep everything you own. However, you must pay the value of the nonexempt property equity in your repayment plan, or your disposable income, whichever is more.

Also, spouses can double the exemption amount if they both own the property for all exemptions other than the homestead exemption. And you can use exemptions on the federal nonbankruptcy exemption list, as well as protect stimulus payments, tax credits, and child credits in bankruptcy with the federal COVID-19 recovery rebate exemption.

When You Can Use Florida’s Bankruptcy Exemptions

Although you can file for bankruptcy in Florida after living there for over 180 days (or the greater portion of 180 days before filing), you must live in Florida much longer before using Florida’s exemptions. Specifically, you need to live in Florida for 730 days before filing the bankruptcy petition. Otherwise, you’d use the previous state’s exemptions.

Suppose you weren’t living in any one state during the two years before filing for bankruptcy. In that case, you'd use the exemptions of the state you lived in for most of the 180 days before the two-year period that immediately preceded your filing. (11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(A).)

Florida's Homestead Exemption

Florida has one of the most generous homestead exemptions in the country. You can exempt an unlimited amount of equity in your home or other property covered by the homestead exemption as long as the property isn’t larger than half an acre in a municipality or 160 acres elsewhere.

Before claiming the homestead exemption in Florida, you must have owned the property for at least 1,215 days before the bankruptcy filing. If you can't meet this requirement, your homestead exemption is limited by federal law. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.01-02)

Find out more about this requirement and the current amount of the federal cap in The Homestead Exemption.

Florida Personal Property Exemptions

The following categories of personal property (anything other than real estate) are exempt:

  • Personal property up to $1,000. Personal property can include items like furniture, art, and electronics, and $4,000 if the homestead exemption isn't used (see the wildcard exemption below). (Art. 10 Sec. 4, Fl. Constitution)
  • Education savings, health savings, and hurricane savings. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.22)
  • Prescribed health aids. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25)
  • Prepaid medical savings account and health savings account deposits (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.22(2))
  • Tax credits and refunds (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(3))
  • Funeral costs per Florida's Preneed Funeral Contract Consumer Protection Trust Fund (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 497.456)
  • Particular partnership property (Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 620.153, 620.8307)

Florida Motor Vehicle Exemption

You can exempt up to $1,000 in motor vehicle equity. This amount increases if you’re married and filing jointly. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(1))

Exemptions for Wages in Florida

Wages of the head of the family are entirely exempt up to $750 per week, or the greater of 75% or 30 times the federal minimum wage. This applies to paid and unpaid wages, as well as wages deposited in a bank account during the last six months. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.11.) Earnings of a person other than the head of the family are protected as follows: 75% or 30 times the federal minimum wage, whichever is greater.

Federal government employees’ pension payments needed for support and were received up to three months before the bankruptcy are also exempt. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.21.)

The Florida Wildcard Exemption

A debtor can claim up to $4,000 of personal property if the debtor doesn’t use the homestead exemption. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25.)

Exemptions for Pensions in Florida

The following types of pensions and retirement funds are exempt in Florida:

  • ERISA qualified retirement plans and pensions (including 401(k)’s, 403(b)’s, profit sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRA’s, and other defined benefit plans) are fully exempt. (11 U.S.C. Section 522; Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.21.) (To learn more, see Your Retirement Plan in Bankruptcy.)
  • Public employee retirement benefits. (Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 121.131, 121.055(6)(e).)
  • State and County officers and employees retirement system benefits. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 122.15.)
  • Firefighter pensions. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 175.241.)
  • Municipal police pensions. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 185.25.)
  • Teachers’ retirement benefits. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 238.15.)

Exemptions for Public Benefits

You can exempt the following public benefits:

  • Veterans benefits, social security benefits, reemployment assistance, and local public assistance benefits. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.201)
  • Workers compensation and unemployment compensation benefits are exempt. (Fl. Stat. §§ 222.201, 443.052, 440.22.)
  • Crime victims’ compensation benefits are exempt unless the debtor seeks to discharge debt for treatment of a related injury. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 960.14.)

Alimony and Child Support Exemptions

Alimony and child support, to the extent reasonably necessary for the debtor's support (the bankruptcy filer) and any dependent of the debtor, are exempt. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.201.)

Exemptions for Insurance Policies and Annuities

You can exempt the following:

  • The proceeds of a life insurance policy payable to a specific beneficiary. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.13.)
  • The cash surrender value of a life insurance policy and the proceeds of an annuity contract; however, annuity proceeds resulting from lottery winnings aren’t exempt. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.14.)
  • Disability income benefits. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.18.)
  • Fraternal benefit society benefits. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 632.619.)

Personal Injury and Lawsuit Exemptions

Damages (money) for an employee’s injuries or death that occurred while working in a hazardous occupation are exempt. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 769.05.) However, any other proceeds received from a lawsuit or pending legal claim belongs to the bankruptcy estate, and you’ll have to use another exemption, such as the wildcard exemption, to protect the recovery.

Also, if you haven’t resolved the lawsuit when you file for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee can decide whether to retain an attorney and proceed on your behalf. The trustee will then decide whether to settle the case or proceed to trial.

Example. In your paperwork, you disclose the minor rear-end accident you were involved in six months before. Even though you weren’t at fault, you didn’t bother pursuing it because your injuries resolved quickly. The bankruptcy trustee has the option of pursuing the claim on your behalf against the driver at fault.

Other Exemptions

Above are some of the most commonly used exemptions in Florida. There could be other exemptions that apply to your situation. You’ll want to ensure that you’re declaring all of the exemptions you’re entitled to by reviewing the Florida Statutes, the Florida Constitution, and the Bankruptcy Code. Or, talk to a local bankruptcy attorney.

This overview cannot provide all of the information you’ll need to file a bankruptcy case. For more detailed information, consider buying a self-help book such as How to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O’Neill and Albin Renauer J.D.

Updated April 22, 2021

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