Bankruptcy Chapter 7 Exemptions

By: Damian Sofsian

Chapter 7 is a "liquidation" of nonexempt assets to pay debts. In an orderly, court-supervised procedure, a court appointed trustee liquidates the non-exempt assets of the debtor's estate and makes distributions to creditors. In Chapter 7, the debtor selects property he/she is eligible to keep from either a list of state exemptions or exemptions provided in the Federal Bankruptcy Code. Although the debtor files a schedule C form for property claimed as exempt, the property is not exempt until the trustee files the property exemption report which actually divides the property as exempt or non-exempt.

Although state exemption laws are different from state to state, these states typically allow the debtor to keep these types of property: The debtor can exempt Up to $17,425 of equity in the home (homestead exemption). Some states have no homestead exemption; some allow debtors to protect all or most of the equity in their home. The debtor may be able to keep jewelry only worth up to $1,000, a vehicle with more than $2,400 of equity. The debtor is allowed to keep the cash value of Insurance policies. Pensions under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) are fully exempted in bankruptcy. Not only all public benefits, such as welfare, social security, and unemployment insurance but also tools used on job and at least 75% of wages are fully protected.

To get exemption the debtor must file the bankruptcy case in the state he/she lived in for the 730 days (2 years) before filing; or the state where he/she lived the majority of the 180 period preceding the 2-year period. Federal exemptions are retirement benefits (veteran's benefits etc.), survivor's benefits (judicial center director's benefits, lighthouse worker's benefits etc.), death disability benefits (injury compensations etc.) and miscellaneous (military group insurance etc.). One must note that federal exemptions are not available for all states.

The Bankruptcy Code allows the debtor to keep certain exempt property; but a trustee will liquidate the debtor's remaining assets.

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