What property can I keep in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing?

Typical examples of property that you can keep are:

  • Your residence, up to $25,150.
  • A car, up to $4,000.
  • Household goods and furnishings, clothing, appliances, books, pets or musical instruments up to $13,400, but no more than $625 per item.
  • Tools of your trade, up to $2,525.
  • The cash value of a life insurance policy, up to $13,400.
  • Health aids.
  • Your right to receive social security, unemployment, welfare, veteran’s benefits, disability, illness, alimony, support, crime victim’s reparations.
  • To the extent necessary for your support, your right to receive life insurance for someone who was supporting you or to recover damages for such a person’s wrongful death.
  • Your right to recover damages, other than for pain and suffering, for personal injury, up to $25,150.

Exemptions vary widely from one state to another, so you must check with an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy in your area. Web sites that attempt to list exemptions for every state can give you an approximate idea of the exemption picture, but they’re bound to be incomplete and out of date in many respects.

The above categories and dollar limits are the ones provided by federal law in states that allow you to choose between the federal exemptions and exemptions available under state law. About 34 states don’t let you choose. The dollar amounts of the federal exemptions are automatically adjusted upwards every three years; these are the figures effective for cases filed on or after April 1, 2019.

If a married couple files a joint petition (the filing of a single petition by an individual and the individual's spouse), each spouse is entitled to his or her own exemptions. In most cases, that fact means that the amounts are doubled.