Deciding Which Bankruptcy Exemptions to Use

Exemptions play a primary role in determining which assets a person can keep as they go through chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings, and it makes sense to plan and research before filing. By making a list of assets, determining which bankruptcy exemptions are to be used, and by maximizing those exemptions, debtors can keep as much of their property as possible after bankruptcy.

Inventory Assets
The first thing to do is to list all the property to be included in the bankruptcy estate, including personal assets and real estate. Start with big-ticket items such as homes, vacation and rental properties and vehicles, along with assets such as stocks, bonds and cash. Continue by listing household goods such as electronics, appliances, clothing and anything else a trustee may believe holds value.

Group Things by Importance
Once a list of assets is made, items should be listed by importance. For most people, houses and cars are a top priority. However, some filers may include family heirlooms or business assets. List prioritization depends on the individual circumstances of the case, and a bankruptcy attorney can help a client get a list together.

Find Available Exemptions
Every state has certain bankruptcy exemptions; some states allow filers to choose their exemptions from a federal list, while other will allow both federal and state lists to be used. To determine which exemptions are to be used, a lawyer will evaluate the case and they will carefully review state and federal bankruptcy laws.

Pair the Property List With Exemptions
If state law allows a filer to use federal exemptions, a lawyer can help them compare those exemptions to their list of assets. Look at each item on the list, and determine whether a specific exemption protects it, or if it falls under a general exemption category. It may be worthwhile to find out whether any exemptions allow the filer to use a homestead exemption on other assets.

A successful bankruptcy filing depends on planning and patience. A filer should figure out how to use bankruptcy exemptions to keep as much of their personal property as possible, and a lawyer with can help them decide where to focus their efforts.

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