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What Are Bankruptcy Exemptions?

When you decide to file for Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy, you may fear that you will have to surrender all your assets or be restricted to subsistence income. However, this is not the case.  There are some assets that the government has no interest in taking, and there are some which will fall under what the Bankruptcy Code calls exemptions. Florida maintains a list of exemptions, so that those who are forced to file can still retain most if not all of their possessions.

State vs. Federal Exemptions

In Florida, unlike in some other states, a filer may not use the federal government exemptions for his bankruptcy with rare and specific exceptions.  However, it is generally considered to be a better deal, as the Florida exemptions are usually more generous than the federal. Unlike the federal exemptions, there is an unlimited homestead exemption (for your principal residence), and the ability to exempt the cash surrender value of life insurance policies, among those reserved for other assets.

In order to use Florida exemptions, you must have lived in Florida for at least 730 days (roughly two years) prior to your filing. If you have not, you will likely wind up using either the federal exemptions or the exemptions of the state in which you lived the longest during the 180 days prior to the two years leading up to your bankruptcy. For example, if you lived in Illinois, and then traveled the country for two years before settling in Florida and filing for bankruptcy, you would use the Illinois exemptions.

Important Exemptions Available in Florida

While there are multiple exemptions available that can greatly increase a filer’s peace of mind, there are specific items that are often cited as being the most attractive, such as the homestead exemption. Others include:

  • An exemption for equity in motor vehicles of up to $1,000; if you are married and filing a joint bankruptcy with your spouse, you may claim $1,000 each.
  • Certain items of personal property up to $1,000; furniture, electronics, and other personal items per person (plus more if you don’t own a home).
  • Government benefits of certain types, such as disability (SSI or SSDI), veterans’ benefits, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Alimony and child support.
  • Insurance policy proceeds (and cash surrender values in some instances), and annuities. However, annuities from lottery winnings are not exempt, and must be disclosed.
  • Unlimited money in qualified retirement accounts

Contact A Bankruptcy Attorney

While exemptions can help save many of your prized possessions, they can also be confusing and at times may appear to contradict themselves. Engaging a knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer can help clear up some of the issues, as well as smoothing out the process. The bankruptcy attorneys at the Orlando firm of Goodblatt · Leo understand how complex bankruptcy truly is, and will do our best to help guide you through yours. Contact us today to set up an initial appointment.

GOODBLATT · LEO is located and serves clients in and around Orlando, FL.

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