Washington Bankruptcy Exemptions

The Washington bankruptcy exemptions help you protect your property in bankruptcy. Get the details.

Updated: April 9, 2019

Like other states, Washington state’s exemptions protect the value of your belongings from creditors when you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Typically, you’ll be able to protect some amount of equity in your home and car, as well as household items and retirement accounts.

Find more about preparing for a Washington bankruptcy in How to File Bankruptcy in Washington State.

Choosing Between State and Federal Exemptions in Washington

Washington is one of the few states that will allow debtors to choose between state and federal bankruptcy exemptions. Bankruptcy filers can evaluate both sets of exemptions and select the set that better protects their assets. If you choose to use the Washington exemptions, you’ll be able to use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions, as well.

Spouses Can Double Washington Exemptions

If you file a joint bankruptcy with your spouse in Washington, you and your spouse can each claim the exemption amounts for property that belongs to both of you. For example, you can’t use your vehicle exemption to protect your spouse’s car unless both have an ownership interest in the car.

For more information about bankruptcy exemptions, including how they work, which state exemption system applies to you, and special homestead exemption rules, see Bankruptcy Exemptions.

Washington Bankruptcy Exemption List

Here are some of the Washington bankruptcy exemptions that bankruptcy filers often use. Unless otherwise indicated, all references are to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). You’ll find a copy of the codes on the Washington State Legislature website.

Washington Homestead Exemption

The homestead exemption protects up to $125,000 of equity in a debtor’s home or principal residence, including a manufactured or mobile home. The exemption is reduced to $15,000 for other personal property used as a residence. (RCW §§ 6.13.010, 6.13.020, 6.13.030.)

You’ll find more details about how the homestead exemption works in The Washington Homestead Exemption.

Washington Motor Vehicle Exemption

A debtor can exempt up to $3,250 in one motor vehicle. Spouses filing jointly can each exempt a vehicle. (RCW § 6.15.010(1)(d)(iii).)

Washington Wildcard Exemption

A filer can exempt up to $3,000 worth of any type of personal property other than wages with the following limitations: no more than $1,500 total in cash, $500 for bank accounts, and $2,500 toward educational loans. (RCW § 6.15.010(1)(d)(ii).)

Washington Tools of the Trade Exemption

A debtor can 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. (RCW § 6.15.010(1)(e)(i)-(iii).)

Washington Pension and Retirement Exemptions

A debtor may exempt federal pension benefits except for child support, and retirement disability benefits except for alimony and child support. (RCW §§ 6.15.020(2), (3).) Police and firefighter retirement benefits are exempt. (RCW §§ 41.26.053, 41.20.180, 41.24.240, 43.43.310.) Retirement benefits of teachers are exempt. (RCW §§ 41.32.590, 41.32.052, 41.32.055.) City employee retirement benefits are exempt. (RCW §§ 41.44.240, 41.28.200.)

Tax-exempt retirement accounts such as 401ks and IRAS are exempt under the federal rules, even if you use Washington exemptions. For current amounts, see Your Retirement Plan in Bankruptcy.

Washington Personal Property Exemptions

You can exempt the following personal property:

  • Clothing. No more than $3,500 for furs, jewelry, and personal ornaments per person (RCW § 6.15.010(1)(a).)
  • Family pictures and keepsakes. Books and electronic media to $3,500 per person (RCW § 6.15.010(1)(b).)
  • Cell phone, personal computer, and printer. (RCW § 6.15.010(1)(c).)
  • Household goods, furniture, and provisions. Not to exceed $6,500 per individual or $13,000 per married couple, with no single item to exceed $750 (RCW § 6.15.010(1)(d)(i).)
  • Child support. (RCW § 6.15.010(1)(d)(iv).)
  • Professionally prescribed health aids. (RCW § 6.15.010(1)(d)(v).)
  • Personal injury recovery. Not to exceed $20,000 per individual or loss of future income payments to the extent reasonably necessary. (RCW § 6.15.010(1)(d)(vi).)
  • Tuition units. Must be purchased more than two years before filing. (RCW § 6.15.010(1)(f).)
  • Annuities. (RCW § 6.15.020(1).)

Other Washington Exemptions

  • Fire insurance proceeds from exempt property. (RCW § 6.15.030.)
  • Some separate property of a spouse. (RCW §§ 6.15.040, 26.16.200.)
  • Wages, salary, and personal services compensation. (RCW § 6.27.150.)
  • Trust income. (RCW § 6.32.250.)
  • Crime victim compensation. (RCW §§ 7.68.070, 51.32.040.)
  • Some partnership property. (RCW § 25.04.250.)
  • Uniforms and firearms. (RCW § 38.40.150.)
  • Police and fire retirement.
  • Disability benefits. (RCW § 48.18.400.)
  • Individual and group life insurance proceeds. (RCW §§ 48.18.410-420.)
  • Annuity contract benefits. Up to $3,000 per month. (RCW § 48.18.430.)
  • Fraternal benefit society benefits. (RCW § 48.36A.180.)
  • Burial lots. Must be sold by a nonprofit association. (RCW §§ 68.20.120, 68.24.220.)
  • Work release earnings. (RCW § 72.65.060.)
  • Public assistance. (RCW §§ 74.04.280, 74.08.210, 40.020, 51.32.040)

Confirming Washington’s Bankruptcy Exemptions

Washington’s exemption amounts adjust periodically. The last adjustment was effective as of June 2018. You’ll find the most recent figures on the Washington State Legislature website.

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