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 2 years, you can choose to claim either New Hampshire exemptions or exemptions under federal law. You aren’t allowed to pick and choose exemptions from both structures, so you’ll want to carefully compare and contrast the values of each (listed below) to determine whether state bankruptcy exemptions or federal bankruptcy exemptions will protect more of the property you own. Just 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. Note that you can take advantage of federal nonbankruptcy exemptions, even if you choose to apply New Hampshire exemptions to your case.
Written by Attorney Kassandra Kuehl.
Updated July 28, 2020
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. This bankruptcy trustee will be empowered to sell any of your personal assets that haven’t been classified as “exempt” per New Hampshire law. As a result, it’s important to exempt as much of your personal property as possible by claiming all of thebankruptcy exemptions available that are relevant to your circumstances. Your exempt property can’t be touched by the trustee assigned to your New Hampshire bankruptcy case, at least to the exemption amount value allowed under the law.
Does New Hampshire allow the use of 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 aminimum of 2 years, you can choose to claim either New Hampshire exemptions or exemptions under federal law. You aren’t allowed to pick and choose exemptions from both structures, so you’ll want to carefully compare and contrast the values of each (listed below) to determine whether state bankruptcy exemptions orfederal bankruptcy exemptions will protect more of the property you own. Just 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. Note that you can take advantage offederal nonbankruptcy exemptions, even if you choose to apply New Hampshire exemptions to your case.
New Hampshire Bankruptcy Exemptions
The figures listed below are the exemption value amounts available to New Hampshire residents filing bankruptcy as single individuals. If you are married and are 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 are a homeowner, New Hampshire law allows you to exempt up to $120,000 of 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 is covered regardless of whether it is a house, condo, or a mobile home. The equity in the building itself, as well as the land it sits on, may be exempted. In this context, you can look at “equity” as the amount of money you’ve invested in your mortgage to this point. Say that the bank loaned you $400,000 for your mortgage and you’ve paid $100,000 of that mortgage off. That $100,000 investment is your equity in your home.
Personal Property Exemptions
New Hampshire law allows filers to safeguard several kinds of tangible property. The value of many categories of tangible property is generally calculated according to “garage sale” pricing, so it tends to go a long way. 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
Tons of hay (4)
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 wildcard exemption values (explained in greater detail at the end of this guide):
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 achieve this goal. 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 compare and contrast 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 $25,150 in home equity. However, if you’re either not a homeowner or don’t need to protect the full amount of home equity allowed under the exemption, you may use up to $12,575 of the remaining homestead exemption value to safeguard property of your choosing. Additional exemption property values under the federal structure include:
Alimony or spousal support (total value)
Child support (total value)
Crime victims’ compensation (total value)
Disability, illness, or unemployment insurance benefits (total value)
Health aids and other health equipment (total value)
IRAS and Roth IRAs (up to $1,362,800)
Jewelry (up to $1,700)
Life insurance policy (loan value up to $13,400)
Life insurance policy for a lost loved one you depended on, which you currently need for support (total value)
Lost earnings payments (total value)
Motor vehicle (equity value up to $4,000)
Public assistance and other public benefits (total value)
Personal injury recovery (up to $25,150 – 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 $625 per item, up to $13,400 overall)
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 (total value)
Social Security benefits (total value)
Tools of Trade: Books, implements, and tools of the trade (up to $2,525)
Veteran’s benefits (total value)
Unmatured life insurance policy except credit insurance (total value)
Unemployment compensation (total value)
Wildcard ($1,325 total plus unused homestead exemption value up to $12,575)
Wrongful death recovery for loss of an individual you depended on for financial reasons (total value)
Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?
If you’re unsure of whether you could benefit more from claiming New Hampshire bankruptcy exemptions or federal bankruptcy exemptions when you file bankruptcy, there is a way to receive legal advice at no cost. Most New Hampshire law firms that handle bankruptcy law matters offer free consultations. You can schedule a consultation and ask an experienced bankruptcy attorney your questions at any time in the filing process. Even if you’re unsure of whether it might be preferable to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy or you’re unsure of whether you pass the means test to qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can seek help evaluating your debt relief options. 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.