Under Mississippi law, almost all Mississippi residents must apply state exemptions to their property, as Mississippi doesn’t allow filers to claim federal exemptions unless an exception for a certain kind of property is allowed under federal law. Mississippi isn’t alone in this approach, as only 17 states allow filers to apply federal bankruptcy exemptions to their property instead of state exemptions. The only scenario under which you’d claim anything other than Mississippi exemptions is if you moved to Mississippi less than two years ago. Because Mississippi residents only have one exemption model to apply to their assets, the process of claiming exemptions is relatively straightforward.
What are the Mississippi bankruptcy exemptions and why are they important in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
When a Mississippi resident files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the Bankruptcy Court assigns a “bankruptcy trustee” to oversee parts of the process. Notably, the trustee is empowered to sell any of the filer’s assets that are not classified as “exempt property.” This means that when you’re filing your bankruptcy case, you’ll want to apply as many Mississippi bankruptcy exemptions as you can to your property. Once an asset is classified as exempt, your trustee won’t be allowed to sell it so that they can pass the proceeds of the sale along to your creditors. Unless you have a lot of valuable property, you should be able to protect most or all of what you own from this risk through careful application of bankruptcy exemptions.↑ Back to top
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Does Mississippi allow the use of federal bankruptcy exemptions?
Under Mississippi law, almost all Mississippi residents must apply state exemptions to their property, as Mississippi doesn’t allow filers to claim federal exemptions unless an exception for a certain kind of property is allowed under federal law. Mississippi isn’t alone in this approach, as only 17 states allow filers to apply federal bankruptcy exemptions to their property instead of state exemptions. The only scenario under which you’d claim anything other than Mississippi exemptions is if you moved to Mississippi less than two years ago. Because Mississippi residents only have one exemption model to apply to their assets, the process of claiming exemptions is relatively straightforward.↑ Back to top
Mississippi Bankruptcy Exemptions
With one notable exception, it’s important to understand that if you’re married and you’re filing for bankruptcy jointly with your spouse, you’re both entitled to a full set of exemptions. Practically, this means that all of the exemption values listed below, unless otherwise noted, can be doubled if you and your spouse co-own the property you’re looking to exempt. The notable exception to this rule is the homestead exemption. In Mississippi, married couples can’t benefit from a doubling of the homestead exemption even if they co-own their marital residence. In short, unless otherwise noted, the figures listed below apply to single filers and may be doubled in the event that filers are married and filing bankruptcy jointly.
Real Property - the Mississippi Homestead Exemption
If you’re a homeowner, you can use the homestead exemption (Miss. Code Ann. § 85-3-21) to protect $75,000 worth of equity in your home. Equity in this context is the amount of money you’ve already invested in your home. Say that the bank loaned you $200,000 to take out your mortgage and you’ve paid $50,000 of that mortgage down. Assuming the property’s value stayed the same, your equity in your home is $50,000 and thus fully protected under the homestead exemption. This means that you won’t be penalized for having so much equity in your home that some of that equity is treated as a nonexempt asset subject to sale by your case trustee.
If your homestead is located on many acres of real estate, know that the exemption can be applied to up to 160 acres. As noted above, a married couple filing jointly cannot double this exemption to cover $150,000 worth of equity in a single residence. The only time that a married couple filing jointly is entitled to two “sets” of homestead exemptions is when that couple inhabits separate residences.
There are a few other important caveats to note regarding the Mississippi homestead exemption:
If you choose to sell your residence, this exemption will exempt the proceeds of that sale up to the equity amount noted above if you lived in the house for a minimum of 18 months.
If you are both older than 60 years of age and are either widowed or married, you may be eligible to claim this exemption even if you don’t reside in your family home anymore.
If your primary residence is a mobile home, you may exempt up to $30,000 in equity in that residence; if you use the homestead exemption to protect your mobile home, you can’t also use a personal property exemption to protect additional equity in that asset (Miss. Code Ann. § 85-3-1(d)).
Personal Property Exemptions
Mississippi law allows filers to exempt certain kinds of personal property valued up to a specific amount. Note that filers of a certain age may exempt additional personal property under the wildcard exemption explained in detail later in this guide. According to Miss. Code Ann § 85-3-1(a), filers may safeguard up to $10,000 (cumulatively) of the following kinds of personal property as a matter of course. The value of these items tends to be calculated according to yard sale prices, so the personal property exemption value allowed for each filer tends to “stretch” quite far:
Cash on hand
Health aids (prescribed by a professional)
Lawn mower (1)
Other “items of tangible personal property worth less than $200.00 each”
Tools of the trade
Note that with the exception of 1 television, 1 radio, and wedding rings, electronic entertainment equipment, jewelry, items acquired as antiques, and works of art are not considered household goods for the purpose of this particular exemption. Items not exempt under this section may be eligible for exemption under the wildcard provision discussed below, if you are a filer of a certain age.
In addition to providing protections for tangible property, Mississippi law allows filers to exempt the value of certain monetary benefits. Unless otherwise noted, filers may exempt the full value of the following monetary benefits and assets:
Assistance for the blind, disabled, and/or elderly
Crime victims’ compensation (Miss. Code Ann. § 99-41-23 (7))
Disability insurance proceeds (Miss. Code Ann § 85-3-1(b)(ii))
Fraternal benefit society benefits (Miss. Code Ann. § 83-29-39)
Health savings accounts assets, including interest accrued established pursuant to a health savings account program as provided in the Health Savings Accounts Act (Miss. Code Ann. § 85-3-1(g))
Homeowners’ insurance proceeds up to $75,000 (Miss. Code Ann. § 85-3-23)
Retirement accounts like IRAs, Keoghs, and ERISA-qualified benefits deposited more than one year before filing (Miss. Code Ann. § 85-3-1(e))
Life insurance proceeds held by the filer (Miss. Code Ann. § 83-7-5)
Life insurance proceeds payable to an executor or administrator up to $50,000 (Miss. Code Ann. § 85-3-13)
Municipal employee benefits
Personal injury awards up to $10,000 (Miss. Code Ann. § 85-3-17)
Property (real and personal) insurance proceeds exempt from execution or attachment, and the proceeds of the sale of such property (Miss. Code Ann § 85-3-1(b)(i))
Public officers, employee retirement benefits, and deferred compensation
State employees’ retirement benefits (Miss. Code Ann. § 25-11-129)
Tax-exempt education savings plans (Miss. Code Ann. § 85-3-1(f))
Tax refund (earned income credit, federal, or state) up to $5,000 in each category (Miss. Code Ann. § 85-3-1(i), (j), (k))
Teachers’ retirement benefits (Miss. Code Ann. § 25-11-201)
Unemployment compensation (Miss. Code Ann. § 71-5-539)
Workers’ compensation (Miss. Code Ann. § 71-3-43)
Note also that 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, and defined-benefit plans are exempt under federal law 11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(C) – this provision safeguards eligible retirement benefits and accounts of Mississippi residents accordingly.
Other Mississippi Exemptions
Mississippi law also provides a “wildcard exemption” that allows for the exemption of property that is either of a type or value that it isn’t exempted by other provisions under the law. However, unlike most states, Mississippi only allows certain residents to take advantage of this wildcard provision. Specifically, Miss. Code Ann. § 85-3-1(h) allows residents over 70 years of age to exempt up to $50,000 of any additional property not already exempted under the law.↑ Back to top
Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
If you’re nervous about applying Mississippi bankruptcy exemptions to your personal property, know that you don’t have to navigate the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process alone if you don’t want to. Upsolve provides free resources online for anyone interested in filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on their own. If you aren’t eligible to file under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code, you’ll want to speak with an attorney about filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Most bankruptcy lawyers offer free consultations. As a result, you can speak with a bankruptcy attorney at no cost and with no obligation attached to the conversation, at any time during the bankruptcy filing process. Upsolve can help you locate an attorney experienced in bankruptcy law in your area. If you can’t afford to work with an attorney beyond the free law firm consultation, Upsolve may be able to help you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case for free.↑ Back to top