Exemptions protect certain property throughout a bankruptcy case. New Hampshire residents have a choice to make when claiming bankruptcy exemptions. As long as you’ve lived in New Hampshire for a minimum of two years, you can choose to claim either the New Hampshire exemptions or the federal exemptions. You aren’t allowed to pick and choose exemptions from both structures, so you’ll want to carefully compare the values of each to decide which will protect more of the property you own.
Written by Attorney Kassandra Kuehl.
Updated April 1, 2022
What Are the New Hampshire Bankruptcy Exemptions and Why Are They Important in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition in New Hampshire, the bankruptcy court will assign a trustee to oversee some aspects of your case. The trustee can sell any of your personal assets that aren't covered by exemptions. The trustee can't touch your property if it's fully exempt, which is the case for most Chapter 7 filers.
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Does New Hampshire Allow Filers To Use Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions?
New Hampshire residents have a choice to make when claiming bankruptcy exemptions. As long as you’ve lived in New Hampshire for at least two years, you can choose to claim either the state exemptions or federal exemptions. You can't pick and choose exemptions from both, so carefully compare the values of each (listed below) to determine which will protect more of the property you own. Note that you can take advantage offederal nonbankruptcy exemptions, even if you choose to apply New Hampshire exemptions to your case.
Also, remember that not all exempt property is created equal. For example, if you’re a homeowner, you may want to take advantage of a superior homestead exemption, even if a particular approach offers less in the way of personal property exemptions.
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Exemptions
The figures listed below are the exemption amounts available to New Hampshire residents filing bankruptcy as single individuals. If you're married and filing jointly with your spouse, you’re entitled to double the amounts listed, unless otherwise noted. New Hampshire is in the minority of states in that it even allows married couples filing jointly to double the state’s homestead exemption.
The only exception to the doubling rule comes into play if you don’t co-own a particular asset. In that instance, you’d apply the single filer exemption amount to the property in question.
Real Property: The New Hampshire Homestead Exemption
If you're a homeowner, New Hampshire law allows you to exempt up to $120,000 of the equity in your home. If you’re married and filing jointly, your homestead exemption value doubles to $240,000. As long as the real estate you’re exempting is your primary residence, it's covered regardless of whether it's a house, condo, or mobile home. The equity in the building itself, as well as the land it sits on, may be exempted.
In this context, equity is equal to the value of your home minus your outstanding mortgage(s). So if you own a home that's valued at $400,00 and you still owe $300,000 on your mortgage, you have $100,000 in equity. Since this is less than the $120,000 exemption, you can protect the full equity in your home.
Personal Property Exemptions
New Hampshire law allows filers to protect several kinds of tangible property. Unless otherwise noted, the following personal property exemptions may be claimed for their full value:
Beds and bedding for family use
Books for family use (up to $800)
Clothing for family use
Farm animals (1 cow, 1 hog, oxen yoke, 1 pig, 6 sheep)
Domestic Fowl (up to $300)
Fuel and provisions (up to $400)
Furniture (up to $3,500 total)
Jewelry (up to $500)
Military equipment and uniforms
Motor vehicle equity (up to $10,000)
Pew in a place of worship
Four tons of hay
Tools of the trade used in your profession (up to $5,000)
Note that if you don’t need to use the full exemption values available for the following kinds of property, you may be able to treat them as an additional wildcard exemption:
Tools of the trade
New Hampshire law also allows filers to exempt a number of public benefits, retirement accounts, insurance proceeds, and other monetary assets. Unless otherwise noted, these fiscal assets may be exempted up to their full value:
ERISA-qualified retirement accounts, including pensions, IRAs, 401(k)s, educational IRAs, Keogh plans, 403(a) and 403(b) annuities, and state-deferred compensation plans
Firefighter benefits and firefighter’s aid
Homeowner’s insurance proceeds (up to $5,000 and only if the damaged property would be exempt)
Life insurance proceeds—not including cash surrender value
Police officer benefits
Public employee benefits
Note that other monetary benefits may be exempted under state or federal laws, as appropriate.
Other New Hampshire Exemptions
If, after applying all the exemptions noted above, you still have property you’ve yet to exempt, you can use the New Hampshire wildcard exemption to protect it. The wildcard exemption allows you to safeguard an additional $1,000 in value of the property of your choice, as well as an additional $7,000 in value of any of the following exemptions that have remaining value leftover after you protected your initial property:
Tools of the trade
Sometimes, it’s easy to choose between claiming federal exemptions and state exemptions, as one structure is clearly more advantageous than the other. But sometimes, both structures offer relatively equal protection for a filer’s property. You’ll need to consider the pros and cons of each approach before committing to either. Keep in mind that if you’re married and you’re filing jointly as a married couple, you may double the federal exemption amounts listed below (for jointly owned property), unless otherwise noted.
Homeowners should note that the federal homestead exemption safeguards up to $27,900 in home equity. But if you’re either not a homeowner or you don’t need to protect the full amount of home equity allowed under the exemption, you may use up to $13,950 of the remaining homestead exemption value to safeguard property of your choosing.
Under the federal exemptions, the following are fully protected:
Alimony or spousal support
Crime victims’ compensation
Disability, illness, or unemployment insurance benefits
Health aids and other health equipment
Life insurance policy for a lost loved one you depended on, which you currently need for support
Public assistance and other public benefits
Lost earnings payments
Social Security benefits
Retirement accounts that are tax-exempt: 401(k)s, 403(b)s, defined benefit plans, money purchase plans, profit-sharing plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs
Unmatured life insurance policy except credit insurance
Wrongful death recovery for loss of an individual you depended on for financial reasons (total value)
You can also use federal exemptions to protect the following up to the listed amounts (current as of April 1, 2022):
IRAS and Roth IRAs up to $1,512,350
Jewelry up to $1,875
Life insurance policy (loan value up to $13,400)
Motor vehicle equity value up to $4,450
Personal injury recovery up to $27,900 with exceptions made for pain and suffering, as well as pecuniary loss
Personal property: Animals, appliances, books, clothing, crops, furniture, household goods, and musical instruments up to $700 per item, up to $14,875 overall
Tools of Trade: Books, implements, and tools of the trade up to $2,800
Wildcard: $1,475 total plus unused homestead exemption value up to $13,950
Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
If you’re not sure whether you'll benefit more by claiming New Hampshire's exemptions or federal bankruptcy exemptions when you file bankruptcy, you can schedule a free consultation and ask an experienced bankruptcy attorney. This can also be useful if you’re unsure of whether it might be preferable to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy or whether you pass the means test to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
If you ultimately decide to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy but can’t afford help with your bankruptcy case beyond a free consultation, Upsolve might be able to help you file for free.