Updated May 20, 2016
If you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island bankruptcy exemptions can help you keep some or all of your property (in Chapter 7) or reduce the total amount you must pay your unsecured creditors (in Chapter 13). (Learn how bankruptcy exemptions work in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.)
Below you can learn what property the Rhode Island bankruptcy exemptions protect, whether you can use the federal exemptions in Rhode Island, what happens to exemptions if you are married and filing jointly, and more.
If you file for bankruptcy in Rhode Island, you choose to use either of the following sets of bankruptcy exemptions: the Rhode Island exemptions or the federal bankruptcy exemptions. You cannot mix and match between these sets, you must choose one and use only the exemptions within that scheme.
If you choose to use the Rhode Island bankruptcy exemptions, however, you may also use any of the federal non-bankruptcy exemptions that apply in your situation. The federal non-bankruptcy exemptions protect property such as federal retirement accounts and veterans’ benefits. You can use both the federal non-bankruptcy exemptions and the Rhode Island exemptions; you don’t have to choose between the two lists.
Unless otherwise stated, if you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy petition, you can double the amount of the Rhode Island bankruptcy exemption if you both own the property. If only one spouse owns the property, then you cannot double the amount.
Below are some of the most commonly used bankruptcy exemptions. The statute citations, unless otherwise noted, are to the General Laws of Rhode Island.
In Rhode Island, you can exempt up to $500,000 of your home. However, in order for the exemption to apply, you must live or intend to live, on the property. Married couples filing jointly cannot double the homestead exemption. §9-26-4.1. (Learn more about the Rhode Island homestead exemption.)
Beds, bedding, furniture, household goods and supplies to $9,600 (spouses may not double). §9-26-4.1; In re Petrozella 247 B.R. 591 (R.I. 2000).
Bibles and books to $300. §9-26-4(4).
Burial plot. §9-26-4(5)
Jewelry to $2,000. §9-26-4(14)
Prepaid tuition program or tuition savings account. §9-26-4(15)
In Rhode Island you can exempt the equity in a car, van, truck, SUV, motorcycle, or other motor vehicle up to $12,000. §9-26-4. (Learn more about the Rhode Island motor vehicle exemption.)
Library of a professional who is practicing. §9-26-4(2).
Tools used for work, to $2,000. §9-26-4(2).
The full amount of earned but unpaid wages for a member of the military on active duty or a seaman; up to $50 for everyone else. §9-26-4.
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. 11 U.S.C. § 522.
IRAS and Roth IRAs to $1,283,025. (This amount is adjusted every three years. For the most recent figure, see Your Retirement Account in Bankruptcy.) 11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(C)(n); 9-26-4(11).
ERISA-qualified benefits. §9-26-4(12).
Firefighters and police officers. §9-26-5.
Private employees. §28-17-4.
State and municipal employees. §36-10-34.
Aid to the blind, aged, and disabled; general assistance. §40-6-14.
Crime victims' compensation. §12-25.1-3(b)(2).
State disability benefits. §28-41-32.
Unemployment compensation. §28-44-58.
Veteran’s disability or survivor’s death benefits. §30-7-9.
Workers' compensation. §28-33-27.
Proceeds or benefits from accident or sickness insurance. §27-18-24.
Fraternal society benefits. §27-25-18.
Proceeds from a life insurance policy if it specifically states that it cannot be used to pay creditors. §27-4-12.
Temporary disability insurance. §28-41-32.
A minor child’s earnings. §9-26-4(9).
Property of a business partnership. §7-12-36.
In Rhode Island, you can use the wildcard exemption to exempt up to $6,500 of any type of property. §9-26-4(16).
This list includes some of the more commonly used Rhode Island bankruptcy exemptions. There may be others. In addition, Rhode Island periodically updates its exemption amounts and sometimes adds new exemptions. To find the most current laws, visit the General Laws of Rhode Island. Be forewarned, however, that the exemptions are found in various parts of the code. To save time and ensure you’ve got the correct information, consider consulting with a Rhode Island bankruptcy attorney.