Missouri Bankruptcy Exemptions

If you file for bankruptcy in Missouri, you can protect property using Missouri's bankruptcy exemptions.

Like all states, Missouri has a set of exemptions you can use to protect 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 Missouri before using its exemptions
  • whether Missouri exemptions will protect all of your property, and
  • what will happen to any property you can't exempt.

If you have more questions, read Filing for Bankruptcy in Missouri. 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 Missouri 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.

The different approaches ensure that creditors receive the same amount regardless of the chapter filed.

When You Can Use Missouri Bankruptcy Exemptions

You can file for bankruptcy in Missouri after living there for more than 180 days. However, you must live in Missouri much longer before using Missouri exemptions—at least 730 days before filing, to be exact. Otherwise, you'd use the previous state's exemptions.

But, suppose you weren't living in any particular 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).) Learn more about filing for bankruptcy after moving to a new state.

Common Missouri Bankruptcy Exemptions

We've put together a list of some common Missouri bankruptcy to help you determine whether you can protect property important to you. Although the federal bankruptcy exemptions aren't available in Missouri, keep in mind that spouses who share an ownership interest in property can double many exemptions (but not the homestead exemption).

Also, all filers are entitled to:

  • use the federal nonbankruptcy exemption list
  • protect stimulus payments, tax credits, and child credits using the federal COVID-19 recovery rebate exemption, and
  • keep 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 and traditional and Roth IRAs to $1,362,800 per person (as of June 2021). (11 U.S.C. 522(b)(3)(C); (n).) Learn more about retirement accounts in bankruptcy.

Missouri Homestead Exemption

The homestead exemption protects equity in your home. In Missouri, you can exempt up to $15,000 of equity in the real estate in which you live or will live, or up to $5,000 of equity in a mobile home in which you live. Joint owners may not double the exemption. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 513.430.1(6), 513.475.)

If you and your spouse own property as a tenancy by the entirety, you might have more protection, but only if one spouse files. Be sure to discuss this with a bankruptcy lawyer. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § § 513.475, 513.427.)

Learn more about Missouri's homestead exemption in bankruptcy.

Missouri Motor Vehicle Exemption

You won't lose your transportation if you file for bankruptcy. In Missouri, you can protect up to $3,000 of equity in a car using the motor vehicle exemption. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(5).)

Example. Jolene owns a 2008 Toyota Camry worth $12,000. She owes the dealer $10,000, leaving $2,000 of equity. She can file for bankruptcy in Missouri and use the $3,000 motor vehicle exemption to protect her vehicle fully.

Missouri Wildcard Exemption

A wildcard exemption protects any property of your choosing. In Missouri, you can select nonexempt property you'd like to keep up to $600 in value. If you are the head of your family, an additional $1,250 of value in any property, plus another $350 for each of your children. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 513.430.1(3), 513.440.)

More Missouri Bankruptcy Exemptions

Personal Property

  • Up to $3,000 of value in furniture, clothing, books, crops, appliances, animals, and instruments. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(1).)
  • Burial grounds, up to one acre or $100. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 214.190.)
  • Health aids. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(9).)
  • Up to $1,500 of value in a wedding ring and up to $500 of value in other jewelry. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(2).)
  • Wrongful death awards to the extent reasonably necessary for support. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(11).)
  • Up to $1,500 in firearms, firearm accessories, and ammunition. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(12).)
  • Health savings accounts. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(f).)
  • Up to $3,000 worth of tools, implements, and books of your trade or business. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(4).)
  • Up to $750 per month in support, alimony, or maintenance. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(d).)

Retirement and Insurance Benefits

  • Up to $150,000 of life insurance dividends, loan or cash surrender value, and interest, if purchased more than six months before filing bankruptcy. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(8).)
  • Disability or illness benefits. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(c).)
  • Unmatured life insurance policy. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(7).)
  • Teachers' and school employee retirement benefits. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§169.090, 169.240, 169.380, 169.520, 169.587, 169.690, 169.780.)
  • ERISA-qualified benefits necessary for support (limited to payments being received). (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(f).)
  • Firefighters' retirement benefits. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 86.563, 87.090, 87.365, 87.485.)
  • Police and highway patrol retirement benefits (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 86.190, 86.353, 86.493, 86.563, 86.780, 104.250.)
  • Public officers and employees' retirement benefits. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 70.695, 70.755, 71.207.)
  • State employees' retirement benefits. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 104.540.)

Public Benefits

  • Veterans' benefits. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(b).)
  • Workers' compensation. (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 287.260.)
  • Unemployment compensation. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 288.380, 513.430.)
  • Social Security benefits and public assistance. (Mo. Rev. Stat. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 513.430.1(10)(a).)

Missouri's exemption amounts adjust periodically. To ensure that you have the most recent figures, be sure to consult with a bankruptcy lawyer or check for any updates at the website of the Missouri General Assembly.

When You Can Use Missouri Bankruptcy Exemptions

You can file for bankruptcy in Missouri after living there for more than 180 days. However, you must live in Missouri much longer before using Missouri exemptions—at least 730 days before filing, to be exact. Otherwise, you'd use the previous state's exemptions.

But suppose you weren't living in any particular 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).) Learn more about filing for bankruptcy after moving to a new state.

Also, to claim the total value of the Missouri homestead exemption, you must have purchased and 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 to $170,350 (this figure will adjust on April 1, 2022).

Avoiding Exemption Issues in Missouri

If you don't exempt your property carefully, you could lose it. Answers to these questions might help you steer clear of common issues.

Do I automatically get to keep my exempt property? Generally, no. Here's the procedure you'll need to follow: You'll select the exemption set that best protects your property, list the exempt assets and applicable exemption laws on Schedule C: The Property You Claim as Exempt, and file it with your other required paperwork.

Will someone check my exemptions? The bankruptcy trustee—the court-appointed official tasked with managing your case—will review Schedule C to ensure that you have the right to protect the claimed property. A trustee who disagrees with your exemptions will file an objection with the court. The judge will decide whether you can keep the property.

Example. Jeff owns a rare, classic car worth $15,000, but the state vehicle exemption won't adequately protect it. Believing that the car qualifies as art—at least in his mind—Jeff exempts it using his state's unlimited artwork exemption. The trustee reviews Schedule C, disagrees with Jeff's characterization, and files an objection with the court. After consideration, the judge will likely side with the trustee, determining that the vehicle doesn't qualify as a piece of art.

What if I make a mistake? Most trustees won't file an objection unless it's clear that the debtor is trying to pull something over on the court. At least not without trying to resolve the issue first. If there's a minor exemption problem, the trustee will likely call you to work out the matter informally.

It's worth noting that it's not a good idea to finesse exemptions. Not only do you have an obligation to supply correct information on your bankruptcy forms, purposefully making inaccurate statements could be considered fraudulent. Bankruptcy fraud is punishable by up to $250,000, 20 years in prison, or both.

Need More Help?

You might not know this, but Nolo has been making the law easy for DIYers for over fifty years. If you have questions, use the links we've included throughout for more details. Otherwise, you'll find the answers to almost all of your bankruptcy questions at nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/bankruptcy or by consulting with a local bankruptcy lawyer.

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

Updated August 13, 2021

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