Depending on the type of bankruptcy you file and the types of assets you have, you may be able to keep many of your assets through the bankruptcy process. Even under Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which usually involves liquidating property to pay creditors, many of your assets may be exempt from sale under either Connecticut or federal exemption laws.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, your nonexempt assets may be taken by your case administrator – called a trustee – and sold to pay your creditors. Many of your debts can then be erased, or discharged, even if the sale of your assets doesn’t pay off all your creditors. But certain exempt assets cannot be seized or sold by the trustee. They are protected from seizure up to certain limits set by law. Note that exempt assets are not the same as allowable expenses under a Chapter 13 repayment plan because allowable expenses are deductions from your income to determine how much money can go toward debt repayment.
Each state has its own list of allowable exemptions, and there are also federal exemptions. Connecticut allows bankruptcy filers to choose either from the federal or state exemptions, but not both, so a debtor can choose the list most beneficial for his situation. Connecticut’s exemptions include equity in the debtor’s residence up to $75,000, clothing, household furnishings, appliances, public assistance payments and some life insurance benefits. If you and your spouse file bankruptcy together and you own your property jointly, Connecticut doubles your exemption for your residence to $150,000.
The list of federal statutory exemptions in bankruptcy is similar to Connecticut’s list. Though either list could be more advantageous to a particular debtor, you can only choose one list for your case. For example, Connecticut exempts a vehicle up to $1,500, but the federal list exempts a vehicle up to $2,400. In contrast, there is a federal exemption for jewelry up to $1,000 in addition to wedding rings, but Connecticut does not have a general jewelry exemption, just an exemption for engagement and wedding rings.
Only Connecticut residents can file for bankruptcy in Connecticut courts or use the Connecticut exemptions. For example, a New York debtor can’t just jump across state lines to file in Connecticut because he likes the Connecticut exemptions better. Before filing for bankruptcy in Connecticut, a debtor must live in the state for more than 90 days in the 180 days prior to filing.