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California Bankruptcy Exemptions

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The California bankruptcy exemptions chart, see below, details the property you can exempt or protect from creditors when you file with a bankruptcy attorney in Los Angeles or anywhere in California. You may exempt any property that falls into one of the exemptions categories below, up to the dollar amount listed. You will be able to kept this exempted property after you file bankruptcy. Please note that there are certain debts which you will not be able to erase in bankruptcy.

An exemption limit applies to any equity you have in the property. Equity is the difference between the value of the property and what is owed on the property. For example, a car valued at $5000 with a loan of $4500 has an equity value of only $500.

If the property is secured by a loan, such as a car or home, and you are current on the payments and the equity is covered by your exemptions, you may elect to keep making payments on the loan and keep this property through the bankruptcy. If all the equity is not covered by your exemptions the trustee may elect to liquidate this asset and distribute the proceeds. Generally, in this case, you would be entitled to the value of your exemption in the asset as a cash payment.

California Bankruptcy law allows married couples filing jointly to each claim a full set of exemptions, unless otherwise noted.

To keep non-exempt property, a debtor must generally pay the trustee the value of the non-exempt property.

When you file bankruptcy in Los Angeles you may also use certain federal exemptions in addition to your California exemptions.

California has two sets of exemptions. You must choose one or the other.


Bankruptcy Exemption System 1

ASSET EXEMPTION DESCRIPTION LAW SECTION
HOMESTEAD Real or personal property you occupy including mobile home, boat, stock cooperative, community apartment, planned development or condo to $75,000 if single and not disabled; $150,000 for families if no other member has a homestead (if only one spouse files, may exempt one-half of amount if home held as community property and all of amount if home held as tenants in common),$175,000 if 65 or older, or physically or mentally disabled; $100,000 if 55 or older, single and earn under $25,000 or married and earn under $35,000 and creditors seek to force the sale of your home; sale proceeds exempt for 6 months after received (husband and wife may not double). 704.710,704.720,704.730In re McFall, 112 B.R. 336(9th Cir. B.A.P., 1990)
PERSONAL PROPERTY Appliances, furnishings, clothing and food needed 704.020
Bank deposits from Social Security Administration to $2000($3000 for husband and wife) 704.080
Building materials to $2000 to repair or improve home (husband and wife may not double) 704.030
Burial plot 704.200
Health aids 704.050
Jewelry, heirlooms and art to $5000 total (husband and wife may not double) 704.040
Motor vehicles to $1900, or $1900 in auto insurance if vehicle(s), lost, damaged or destroyed (husband and wife may not double) 704.010
Personal injury and wrongful death causes of action 704.140 (a),704.150 (a)
Personal injury and wrongful death recoveries needed for support; if receiving installments, at least 75% 704.140(b), (c), (d),704.150 (b), (c)
May file homestead declaration 704.920
INSURANCE Disability or health benefits 704.130
Fidelity bonds Labor 404
Fraternal unemployment benefits 704.120
Homeowner’s insurance proceeds for 6 months after received, to homestead exemption amount 704.720 (b)
Life Insurance proceeds if clause prohibits proceeds from being used to pay beneficiary’s creditors Ins. 10132, Ins. 10170,Ins. 10171
Matured life insurance benefits needed for support 704.100 (c)
Unmatured life insurance policy loan value to $8,000 (husband and wife may double 704.100 (b)
MISCELLANEOUS Business or professional licenses 695.060
Inmates’ trust fund to $1000 (husband and wife may not double) 704.090
Property of business partnership Corp. 15025
PENSIONS County employees Gov’t 31452
County firefighters Gov’t 32210
County peace officers Gov’t 31913
Private retirement benefits, including IRAs and Keoghs 704.115
Public employees Gov’t 21201
Public retirement benefits 704.110
PUBLIC BENEFITS Aid to blind, aged, disabled, AFDC 704.170
Financial aid to students 704.190
Relocation benefits 704.180
Unemployment benefits 704.120
Union benefits due to labor dispute 704.120(b)(5)
Workers’ compensation 704.160
TOOLS OF TRADE Tools, implements, materials, instruments, uniforms, books, furnishings, equipment, vessel, motor vehicle to $5,000 total; to $10,000 total if used by both spouses in same occupation (cannot claim motor vehicle under tools of trade exemption if claimed under motor vehicle exemption) 704.060
WAGES Minimum 75% of wages 704.070
Public employees vacation credits; if receiving installments, at least 75% 704.113


Bankruptcy Exemption System 2

NOTE: Married couples may not double any exemptions (se In re Talmadge, 822 F.2d 1120 (9th Cir. 1987);
In re Baldwin, 70 B.R. 612 (9th Cir. B.A.P. 1987)

ASSET EXEMPTION DESCRIPTION LAW SECTION
HOMESTEAD

Real or personal property, including co-op, used as residence to $17,425; unused portion of homestead may be applied to any property

703.140 (b)(1)
PERSONAL PROPERTY

Animals, crops, appliances, furnishings, household goods, books, musical instruments and clothing to $450 per item

703.140 (b) (3)
Burial plot to $17,425, in lieu of homestead 703.140 (b) (1)
Health aids 703.140 (b) (9)
Jewelry to $1,150 703.140 (b) (4)
Motor vehicle to $2,775 703.140 (b)( (2)
Personal injury recoveries to $17,425 (not to include pain and suffering; pecuniary loss) 703.140 (b) (11) (D, E)
Wrongful death recoveries needed for support 703.140 (b) (11) (B)
INSURANCE Disability benefits 703.140 (b) (10)() (C)
Life insurance proceeds needed for support of family 703.140 (b) (11) (C)
Unmatured life insurance contract accrued avails to $9,300 703.140 (b) (8)
Unmatured life insurance policy other than credit 703.140 (b) (7)
MISC. Alimony, child support needed for support 703.140 (b) (10) (D)
PENSIONS ERISA-qualified benefits needed for support 703.140 (b) (10) (E)
PUBLIC BENEFITS Crime victim’s compensation 703.140 (b) (11) (A)
Public Assistance 703.140 (b) (10) (A)
Social Security 703.1400 (b) (10) (A)
Unemployment compensation 703.140 (b) (10) (A)
Veterans’ benefits 703.140 (b) (10) (B)
TOOLS OF TRADE Implements, books, and tools of trade up to $1,750 703.140 (b) (6)
WAGES NONE
WILD CARD $925 of any property 703.140 (b) (5)
Plus unused portion of homestead or burial exemption, of any property 703.140 (b) (5)

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About the author

Charles M. Green is Certified as a Family Law Specialist through the Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California. He has worked extensively in both the financial fields and as a litigation attorney specializing in Family Law Cases. He is also diversely experienced in a number of other practice areas of importance to individuals and families. You can find him on Google+

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