Exemptions in Bankruptcy: What Can You Keep?

Facing bankruptcy can be daunting. One of the most pressing concerns people often have is: what will happen to their personal belongings? Will they lose their home, car, or family heirlooms?

Fortunately, bankruptcy laws offer exemptions. These exemptions allow individuals to retain certain assets even after declaring bankruptcy.

Here’s a breakdown of what exemptions in bankruptcy mean and what you can potentially keep.

What are Bankruptcy Exemptions?

When you file for bankruptcy, not everything you own is up for grabs by creditors. Exemptions allow you to protect certain property so you won’t be left destitute.

Think of these as a safety net. The underlying principle is simple: everyone deserves a fresh start and should not be stripped of all personal possessions.

Types of Bankruptcy and Exemptions

There are different types of bankruptcy filings, mainly Chapter 7 and Chapter 13, each have their own set of rules regarding exemptions.

  1. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: Often called “liquidation bankruptcy,” in this form, a trustee sells non-exempt property to repay creditors. However, with the right exemptions, many individuals lose little to no property.
  2. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Here, instead of selling assets, you repay a portion of your debts through a repayment plan. Generally, you get to keep most of your property, but the value of your non-exempt assets often affects how much you repay.

Common Bankruptcy Exemptions

Here’s a list of typical exemptions you may encounter:

  1. Homestead Exemption: This protects the equity in your primary residence. In many states, if your home equity doesn’t exceed a certain amount, you can keep your home.
  2. Motor Vehicle Exemption: You’re typically allowed to keep one vehicle up to a certain value, ensuring that you can still get to work or perform essential daily tasks.
  3. Personal Property: This category covers household items, clothing, appliances, and sometimes even jewelry. Each item usually has a capped value you can exempt.
  4. Tools of the Trade: If you need specific items for your job or business (like tools or equipment), you can often protect them up to a certain amount.
  5. Wildcard Exemption: Some states offer a flexible “wildcard” exemption. This lets you protect any property of your choice up to a certain value.
  6. Retirement Accounts: Most retirement accounts, like 401(k)s and IRAs, are protected under federal law. This means that, in most cases, you won’t lose your retirement savings.


Court ordered automatic stay


Federal vs. State Exemptions

Bankruptcy is governed by federal law, but states can set their own exemption guidelines.

Some states let you choose between federal and state exemption lists, while others require you to use their state-specific list.

It’s crucial to research or consult with a legal expert in your state to understand which exemptions apply to you.

Planning and Strategy

If you’re thinking about bankruptcy, it’s not just about deciding to file; it’s about planning. By understanding how exemptions work, you can make informed decisions about which assets to keep, sell, or transfer.

For example, if your state has a generous motor vehicle exemption but a limited personal property exemption, it might make sense to sell some non-essential personal items and use that money towards your car.

A Few Points to Remember

  • Always be honest: Do not try to hide assets or undervalue them. This can lead to severe consequences, including denial of your bankruptcy discharge.
  • Consult an attorney: Exemptions can get complex. A bankruptcy attorney can help you navigate the intricacies, ensuring you maximize the assets you get to keep.
  • Think ahead: If bankruptcy seems like a future possibility, familiarize yourself with your state’s exemptions early. This knowledge can guide financial decisions that position you more favorably should bankruptcy become necessary.

Wrapping Up

Bankruptcy is a tool to give people a fresh start, not punish them by taking everything away.

Exemptions play a crucial role in this process, ensuring that individuals can rebuild their lives post-bankruptcy.

By understanding and smartly utilizing these exemptions, you can navigate bankruptcy more confidently and safeguard the assets that matter most to you.


Learn More

At Blue Bee Bankruptcy, our lawyers are highly experienced in bankruptcy options. More importantly, we understand that each case we receive is unique and each client has different needs and goals. We will discuss these signs with you and decide the best route to take.

We strive to help our clients rebuild their lives and take steps toward a better financial future through filing. 


Best Bankruptcy Attorneys in Salt Lake City


If you’re dealing with the potential of bankruptcy, give us a call. Our team will work to help you by reviewing all of the options our firm has available. We will ensure you’ll get the best possible outcome for your situation.

Get in touch today so we can start working on either halting bankruptcies or preventing them from taking place altogether!

Contact Us Today For Help! You can schedule your free consultation online or call us at (801) 285-0980.


Blue Bee Bankruptcy Law Firm

Rebuild Your Life After Bankruptcy
Get FREE information on rebuilding your credit.
Start Today