The Florida bankruptcy exemptions help you keep certain property when you file. Unlike some other states, Florida requires you to use the state exemptions. You don’t have the option to claim the federal bankruptcy exemptions.
When you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, one of the biggest questions is whether or not you will be able to keep your property.
That depends on which property exemptions you can use on your bankruptcy forms. They are called exemptions because they “exempt” -- or “excuse” -- certain property from being taken. In most cases, exemptions protect most day-to-day items that you own, unless you have expensive property like a house or a car.
Certain exemptions protect entire categories of property like retirements accounts, regardless of value. Other exemptions only protect specific property like a vehicle up to a certain value.
Every state has its own set of property exemptions. And some states also allow you choose between their exemptions and a set of federal bankruptcy exemptions. When they do, they will generally let you to choose the system that is the best fit for you.
This means that you don’t have the option to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions. You can only use the Florida bankruptcy exemptions.
So, there are a few main things to keep in mind:
The Residency Requirement If You Have a Home, Florida’s Homestead Exemption is Generous. If You Don’t Have a Home, the Wildcard Exemption Helps You Keep More Property.
This article will help you understand some of the ways Florida's bankruptcy exemptions work and the things to keep in mind when filing in Florida.
First things first. . .
Before settling on the Florida bankruptcy exemptions, it’s important to be sure that you meet the residency requirements.
You are required to have lived in Florida for at least the past 2 years (720 days before filing) to use that state’s exemptions.
What if you haven’t lived in Florida for the past 2 years? Then, you use the exemptions from the state you resided in for the majority of the 6 month period prior to 2 years ago.
For example, I am filing for bankruptcy in New York today where I live. But until I moved to New York last year, I lived in Vermont for my entire life. When I file for bankruptcy, I need to use Vermont exemptions.
Now that you’ve figured out which state exemptions apply to you, let’s discuss how they might compare to the federal exemptions.
Calling all homeowners!
This Florida bankruptcy exemption covers real property such as family homes, co-ops, mobile homes, burial plots, etc.
Florida’s bankruptcy exemption for homestead is important because it lets you keep your house.
Other states usually limit how much equity you can have in the house. So, you can only protect up to a certain value. This is not the case in Florida. As long as you meet the requirements below, you can protect your home under Florida’s bankruptcy exemptions for homestead.
You can use the Florida bankruptcy exemption for homestead if :
You have to have bought and owned the property for the last 1,215 days prior to filing (~ a little under 3 ½ years).
Property size can’t exceed ½ an acre (in the city) - or - 160 acres (farther out).
Couples: This exemption can be doubled for spouses that are filing together.
Do you have a lot of stuff?
If you don’t need the Homestead Exemption, Florida bankruptcy exemptions allow you to increase the amount of personal property you can protect. Normally you can protect $1,000. But, if you don’t own a home, you can use the Wildcard Exemption to protect up to $4,000.
This becomes important if you have items that don’t quite fit into certain categories. Or, if the value of some of your property is over the amount the court lets you protect.
So, how does this work exactly?
Maybe you realize that you want to protect more than $1,000 of personal property. Things like extra books, TVs, clothes, etc. If this is the case, you can use the personal property exemption for $1,000 worth of stuff and then list the wildcard exemption for the rest of the items from $1,001 - $4,000 in value. Maybe your car has $2,200 in equity and you’re frustrated because the Motor Vehicle Exemption only lets you protect up to $1,000. If you’re not using the Homestead Exemption, you can use the Wildcard Exemption to protect the other $1,200 difference!
If you’re not using the Homestead Exemption, Florida’s Wildcard Bankruptcy Exemption will help you keep up to $4,000 in property.
Although you are limited to Florida’s bankruptcy exemptions, there are certain instances where you can claim other federal exemptions that aren’t related to the bankruptcy code. These are called the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.
You can use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions if you belong to a specific group of people or work in a particular profession. These federal nonbankruptcy exemptions can be applied if you have special circumstances with:
You can use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions if you belong to a specific group of people or work in a particular profession. These exemptions can be applied if you have special circumstances with:
Some of the professions it applies to are:
It’s important to know whether or not these special cases apply to you. If you’re eligible, the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions can help you protect property that otherwise wouldn’t be protected under Florida’s bankruptcy exemptions.
This section highlights some of the most common Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions.
Florida’s Homestead Exemption Amount: Unlimited, if you’ve owned the house for long enough.* What It Covers: The Florida bankruptcy exemption for homestead can help you protect your home, as long as you meet the requirements above.
Motor Vehicles Amount: up to $1,000 (in equity). What It Covers: This Florida bankruptcy exemption protects vehicles with equity up $1,000. If you have more, the car may be sold. But, remember if you aren’t using the homestead exemption and want to protect a vehicle, you can use the wildcard exemption to protect up to $4,000 of personal property.
Personal Property Amount: $1,000, but will go up to $4,000 if you aren’t using the Homestead Exemption. What It Covers: The Florida bankruptcy exemption for personal property covers most of your day-to-day items. This likely includes items like:
Wages Amount: Up to $720, if you’re the head of household. What It Covers: The Florida bankruptcy exemption for personal injury covers any money that you received for harm, loss of future earnings, or if you were the victim of a crime.
Pensions and Retirement Accounts Amount: 401(k)’s exempt; IRA’s and Roth IRA’s exempt up to $1,171,650. What It Covers This Florida bankruptcy exemption covers money you’ve put aside for later.
There you have it!
When you’re filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Florida does not give you the option to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions. Assuming you meet the residency requirements, you are required to use the Florida bankruptcy exemption covers money you’ve put aside for later. . When thinking about how the Florida bankruptcy exemptions can work for you, there are a few other things to keep in mind.
Florida’s Homestead Exemption is very generous. This is important to consider if you are a homeowner who is concerned about having to give up your house. The exemption is unlimited if your house is less than a certain size and you’ve owned it for a while.
Florida’s Wildcard Exemption can help you keep more stuff. This is important to consider if you don’t own a home but would like to protect more than $1,000 of personal property.
When you’re filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the Florida bankruptcy exemptions can help you keep most of the property that you own.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a powerful social safety net. By erasing your debts and using the property exemptions to protect your stuff, you will be well on your way to a fresh start.
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Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) legal aid nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income Americans in financial distress get a fresh start through Chapter 7 bankruptcy at no cost. We do this by combining the power of technology with pro bono attorneys. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have mission-driven funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and private charities.