Federal Non-bankruptcy Exemptions vs. State Exemptions

Although states can opt out of most federal bankruptcy exemptions, some are mandatory. These exemptions are available to everyone who is using his or her state’s exemptions, and are not available to anyone using the federal exemptions or the second California state option (which is very like the federal exemptions).

These exemptions are called non-bankruptcy exemptions, because they are found in areas of the United States Code other than the Bankruptcy Code. All of the bankruptcy exemptions are complete exemptions, not exemptions of a specified amount, except for the provision that at least 75% of wages will be exempt. If your state also specifies that a certain percentage of wages will be exempt, you don’t get to add the percentages together. You can choose whichever amount is higher.

Non-bankrputcy Exemptions
Asset Exemption US Code Section
Death and Disability Benefits for: Longshoreman and harbor workers 33 § 916
Risk, hazard, death, or injury of War 42 § 1717
Government employees 5 § 8130
Retirement Benefits for: Civil service employees 5 § 8346
Military service employees 10 § 1440
Foreign Service employees 22 § 4060
Veterans 38 § 5301
Military Medal of Honor roll 38 § 1562(c)
Railroad workers 45 § 231m
Social Security recipients 42 § 407
Survivor’s Benefits for: Military service 10 § 1450
US judicial employees including judges, center directors, and administrative assistants to the US Supreme Court Chief Justice 28 § 376
Lighthouse workers 33 § 775
Miscellaneous Military deposits made in savings accounts while the debtor was on permanent duty outside the US. 10 § 1035
A minimum of 75% of weekly disposable wages or 30 times the federal hourly wage, whichever is greater. The bankruptcy judge may allow more for a debtor with a low income. 15 § 1673
Indian lands, or proceeds from the sale of a homestead or lease. 25 § 410
Benefits for Klamath Indians residing in Oregon. 25 §§ 543, 545
Military group life insurance. 38 § 1970(g)
Unemployment insurance benefits for railroad workers. 45 352(e)
Wages for a seaman made under a written contract while the debtor was on a voyage. 46 § 11109
Clothing of a seaman. 46 § 11110

Click here to read an Introduction to Bankruptcy Exemptions.