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California Bankruptcy Exemptions

cpa divorce law los angeles

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

HOMESTEADReal 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 PROPERTYAppliances, furnishings, clothing and food needed704.020
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 plot704.200
Health aids704.050
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 action704.140 (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 declaration704.920
INSURANCEDisability or health benefits704.130
Fidelity bondsLabor 404
Fraternal unemployment benefits704.120
Homeowner’s insurance proceeds for 6 months after received, to homestead exemption amount704.720 (b)
Life Insurance proceeds if clause prohibits proceeds from being used to pay beneficiary’s creditorsIns. 10132, Ins. 10170,Ins. 10171
Matured life insurance benefits needed for support704.100 (c)
Unmatured life insurance policy loan value to $8,000 (husband and wife may double704.100 (b)
MISCELLANEOUSBusiness or professional licenses695.060
Inmates’ trust fund to $1000 (husband and wife may not double)704.090
Property of business partnershipCorp. 15025
PENSIONSCounty employeesGov’t 31452
County firefightersGov’t 32210
County peace officersGov’t 31913
Private retirement benefits, including IRAs and Keoghs704.115
Public employeesGov’t 21201
Public retirement benefits704.110
PUBLIC BENEFITSAid to blind, aged, disabled, AFDC704.170
Financial aid to students704.190
Relocation benefits704.180
Unemployment benefits704.120
Union benefits due to labor dispute704.120(b)(5)
Workers’ compensation704.160
TOOLS OF TRADETools, 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
WAGESMinimum 75% of wages704.070
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)


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)

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 homestead703.140 (b) (1)
Health aids703.140 (b) (9)
Jewelry to $1,150703.140 (b) (4)
Motor vehicle to $2,775703.140 (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 support703.140 (b) (11) (B)
INSURANCEDisability benefits703.140 (b) (10)() (C)
Life insurance proceeds needed for support of family703.140 (b) (11) (C)
Unmatured life insurance contract accrued avails to $9,300703.140 (b) (8)
Unmatured life insurance policy other than credit703.140 (b) (7)
MISC.Alimony, child support needed for support703.140 (b) (10) (D)
PENSIONSERISA-qualified benefits needed for support703.140 (b) (10) (E)
PUBLIC BENEFITSCrime victim’s compensation703.140 (b) (11) (A)
Public Assistance703.140 (b) (10) (A)
Social Security703.1400 (b) (10) (A)
Unemployment compensation703.140 (b) (10) (A)
Veterans’ benefits703.140 (b) (10) (B)
TOOLS OF TRADEImplements, books, and tools of trade up to $1,750703.140 (b) (6)
WILD CARD$925 of any property703.140 (b) (5)
Plus unused portion of homestead or burial exemption, of any property703.140 (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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