An exemption in bankruptcy is an asset that is protected from seizure by your creditors by either federal or state law. In some states, you have the option of choosing between the state’s bankruptcy exemptions or the federally recognized exemptions. For example, if you file for bankruptcy in New Jersey, you have the option of choosing the set of exemptions that is more beneficial to you.
Placing a value on your property to determine whether it is exempt may not be as simple as it sounds. For example, the value of your property is the property’s current value, not what you paid to acquire it. If you are trying to determine the value of your vehicle, refer to Kelley Blue Book for an estimate of your car’s current fair market value. If you are unsure of your home’s current value, you may need to contact an appraiser to come and view your property and provide you with an accurate estimate of its value.
Chapter 7 Exemptions
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation of your assets to raise funds to repay your creditors. The exemptions that you claim and are eligible to receive will determine what property you are able to keep during and after your Chapter 7 bankruptcy. For example, if your home is worth $130,000 and your state provides up to $135,000 in a homestead exemption, you will be able to keep your home. All non-exempt property may be seized by your bankruptcy trustee and sold, with the funds becoming part of your bankruptcy estate. However, in many Chapter 7 cases, there are few to no assets to sell.
Chapter 13 Exemptions
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is different than Chapter 7 bankruptcy and allows you to keep your property while you make monthly payments to your Chapter 13 trustee during a repayment plan. The repayment plan will generally take between three to five years to complete and must allocate funds to repay all or a significant part of your debt. If you choose to keep property that is not fully exempt in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you can exempt the amount allowed by state or federal law, and then continue to make payments toward any outstanding amount. These payments toward your partially exempt property decrease the amount of monthly money you have available to repay your unsecured creditors in your Chapter 13 plan.
First, when you complete Schedule C, you will need to indicate, by checking the appropriate box, whether you are using your state’s exemptions [11 U.S.C. Section 522(b) (3)], or the federal ones [(11 U.S.C. Section 522(b) (2)]. Schedule C also asks you to check a box at the top of the form if you are claiming a homestead exemption that exceeds $146,450, as of 2012. Schedule C is divided into columns, and the first column asks you to describe each asset you are claiming as fully or partially exempt . In column two, you must list the statute that allows you to exempt the property described in column one. In the third column of Schedule C, list the dollar amount of the exemption you are claiming. Finally, in the last column, enter the value of the property, without including the exemption.