The Washington Homestead Exemption

Learn about Washington state's homestead exemption and how it applies in a bankruptcy case.

Most people want to know whether they can keep valuable property before filing for bankruptcy—especially a home. If you qualify to use the Washington homestead exemption, you can protect some or all of the equity in your house. In this article, we explain:

  • how much the Washington homestead exemption will cover, and
  • how to apply it in your bankruptcy case.

For more bankruptcy information, read How to File for Bankruptcy in Washington State. 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.

Homestead Exemptions Available in a Washington State Bankruptcy

Washington lets filers choose between the federal system and Washington's state exemption system. You can't mix exemptions from both lists, however. Start by selecting the set that will best protect critical assets.

We've listed both exemption amounts below so you can compare the two. Also, spouses who co-own a home and file for bankruptcy together can double the federal homestead amount, but not Washington's homestead exemption. Learn more about filing considerations for married couples.

Federal Homestead Exemption

If you use the federal homestead exemption, you can protect $25,150 of equity in your personal residence if you file individually. This figure increases to $50,300 for married couples. (These figures will adjust on April 1, 2022.) For comparison purposes, you'll find more federal bankruptcy exemptions here.

Washington's Homestead Exemption

By contrast, the Washington homestead exemption is much more generous. You can use it to protect a house, condominium, mobile, or manufactured home serving as your principal residence. (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 6.13.030.) The exemption will depend on the home's location:

Adams $216,900

Franklin $329,500

Lewis $304,100

Snohomish $549,400

Asotin $216,900

Garfield $216,900

Lincoln $202,100

Spokane $318,200

Benton $329,500

Grant $258,500

Mason $319,600

Stevens $242,00

Chelan $418,600

Grays Harbor $251,100

Okanogan $254,500

Thurston $383,600

Clallam $352,600

Island $442,700

Pacific $234,300

Wahkiakum $313,900

Clark $403,700

Jefferson $455,900

Pend $242,000

Walla Walla $305,500

Columbia $214,700

King $729,600

Pierce $424,300

Whatcom $444,400

Cowlitz $307,500

Kitsap $425,100

San Juan $694,800

Whitman $291,300

Douglas $373,200

Kittitas $411,000

Skagit $421,800

Yakima $281,500

Ferry $172,900

Klickitat $370,800

Skamania $340,500

You'll find more Washington bankruptcy exemptions here.

Have You Lived in Washington State Long Enough?

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

But suppose you lived in multiple states 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 Washington 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).

Learn more about this requirement, the current amount of the federal cap, and other important exceptions to homestead exemptions.

Claiming a Washington State Homestead Exemption

The homestead exemption is automatic in Washington state—you don't have to file a homestead declaration with the recorder's office before filing for bankruptcy. However, you must list the homestead exemption on Schedule C: The Property You Claim as Exempt when completing your bankruptcy forms. Keep in mind that you'll need to meet other requirements to prevent losing your home, too. Find out more in Your Home in Chapter 7 or Your Home in Chapter 13.

However, to protect unimproved land or property that you don't yet live in, you must file a homestead declaration. You might also need to file a declaration stating you are abandoning the property in which you currently reside and are claiming the unimproved or new property as your homestead. Contact a local lawyer or your county recorder for information on how to protect property by filing a homestead declaration and declaration of abandonment.

Finding the Washington State Homestead Exemption Statute

You'll find Washington's homestead exemption in the Washington Revised Code at Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 6.13.030 on the Washington State Legislature webpage. Learn about finding state statutes in Laws and Legal Research.

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 July 13, 2021

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