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Property You Can Keep When You File Chapter 7 in Florida

by Dorota Trzeciecka on April 19th, 2010

If you are thinking of filing bankruptcy, a question that may be going through your mind is:  “will I be able to keep my house, my car, or my retirement savings?”   In  Chapter 7 bankruptcy, also called “liquidation” bankruptcy, you typically have to surrender your property to the U.S. Trustee, who then liquidates it at an auction, and divides the proceeds from the sale among your unsecured creditors.  But, Florida Statues and Florida Constitution provide that you can keep some of your property, even when you file Chapter 7.   This property is called exempt property.   The property that you surrender to the U.S. Trustee is called, you guessed it, non-exempt property.  Here is the list of exempt property that you will be able to keep when you file Chapter 7 in Florida:

  • Ggenerally, you can keep your home, as long as you own it free and clear from any liens, or you maintain timely mortgage payments on it.   
  • If you have a tax refund or tax credit due from the IRS, you do not have to surrender it to the U.S. Trustee.
  • Florida has a generous wage exemption.  A head of a family can keep 100% of his or her wages, up to $500 per week, paid or unpaid, and deposited into a bank account for up to 6 months.   
  • You can keep your personal property of up to $1,000 in value (double that if you are  married).  If you do not own a homestead, the value of personal property you can claim as exempt is much higher — $4,000.  This $4,000 exemption is sometimes called a “wild card” exemption.  It is called “wild card” because you can apply it to any type of property to make it, or more of it, exempt.  
  • You can keep your car, if your equity in the car does not exceed $1,000.  Equity is the amount you would get to keep, if you sold it and paid off any outstanding liens.  If you are still making payments on your car, you may need to decide whether to reaffirm your car loan.    
  • Other common  Florida exemptions include your retirement accounts, health aids, pre-need funeral contract deposits, pre-paid college trust deposits, pre-paid hurricane savings accounts, pre-paid medical savings accounts  deposits, and any public benefits you receive, for example, public aid, social security, unemployment compensation, veteran’s benefits, and worker’s compensation.

This list is by no means all inclusive.  As you can see though, these exemptions are pretty broad.  In the end, you may not have to surrender much to the U.S. Trustee, or anything at all.   But, if you find that you have something valuable and worth keeping,  you can always use any of the exempt property from the list above to pay the value of that desirable property to the U.S. Trustee, and keept it.

  • FlaGuy

    Great Blog, and Great information,
    I have a question in regards to the means test, I am in the southern bankruptcy district of Florida, I am the sole income provider, If I file chapter 7 without my spouse, as the debt is in my name, would I be able to claim the vehicle expense on my spouses vehicle in which the loan and title is in my spouses name alone
    Thank You for your time

    • Thanks. I am glad that you found the information useful.

      As to your question, if you are the sole income provider, and you pay the expenses for your spouse’s vehicle, you would include them on Form 22A, line 22 (operating expenses), and lines 23 and 24 (ownership expenses). If you go to the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee site, http://www.flsb.uscourts.gov/, Means Testing Information, you will see the amounts you can claim for the operating expenses and the ownership cost (loan/lease payment) for transportation. Line 22 instructs you to “Check the number of vehicles for which you pay the operating expenses”. The same applies to line 23, it instructs you to “Check the number of vehicles for which you claim an ownership/lease expense. (You may not claim an ownership/lease expense for more than two vehicles.)”

      Let me know if you have any other questions on this or any other topic.

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