What property can I keep after a chapter 7 bankruptcy?

Deciding to file for bankruptcy is a difficult decision that most people try and avoid if at all possible, especially since filing stays on one’s credit report for 10 years. But for many circumstances force their hands and bankruptcy becomes inevitible. Under Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, debtors pay back debts over an extended period of time, but when that isn’t possible some will file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy which will cancel many of their debts.

However, just because someone has filed a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy doesn’t mean they can live in luxury. Filing a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is a humbling experience, one that requires many to scale back to the necessities, take inventory of their possesions and prioritize their lives. Excessive posessions will be liquidated in order to pay creditors at least a portion of what is owed.

But of course, no one expects people to live with absolutely nothing. For this reason there are limits on what property one is allowed to keep. Many people find these limits quite reasonable, and well worth the peace of mind that comes from no more collection calls.

Exact values of what is allowed can vary somewhat depending on what state a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is filed in.

  1. The first thing you get to keep is $20,200 of value in your residence. This means those with a large amount of equity in a home, may need to refinance to pay off some bills before being condisered. However, for those who rent, this should not be a factor.
  2. You are also allowed to keep your vehicle valued up to $3225. This is the Market Value, minus any loans against it. Household items values at up to $10,775 are also considered exempt, except no individual item can be valued at more than $525. Jewlery and heirlooms up to $1225 may be kept. Tools of the trade, valued to $1850 may be kept, this includes anything which is deemed necessary to earn one’s livelihood.
  3. You may also continue to receive a reasonable amount of alimony or child support, and public benefits, such as unemployment, worker’s compensation, Veteran’s benefits or social security are also safe. Retirement accounts, such as 401Ks, should also be left in tact.
  4. In addition to liquidating assets down to these levels, filers of Chapter 7 backruptcy must also meet median income guidelines, and complete credit counseling before filing.

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