What are the Ohio Bankruptcy Exemptions?

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Written by the Upsolve Team.  Reviewed by Andrea Wimmer, Esq.
Updated June 22, 2020

Summary

Although some states in the country allow people to choose between the federal bankruptcy exemptions and state exemptions, this option is not available if you are filing bankruptcy in Ohio. Ohio, like many other states, has its own bankruptcy exemptions. If you’ve lived in Ohio for at least 2 years when filing your case, you have to use the Ohio bankruptcy exemptions and can’t use federal exemptions Note that one great advantage of using state bankruptcy exemptions in Ohio is that you will have an additional list of bankruptcy exemptions that might be available to you. So, while you have to use Ohio bankruptcy exemptions if you file a bankruptcy in the state, you can use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions as well. These exemptions protect certain qualifying property, like federal and military retirement benefits.

What are the Ohio bankruptcy exemptions, and why are they important in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy? 

If mounting credit card debt is keeping you up at night, filing bankruptcy in Ohio can give you a fresh start and peace of mind you deserve. Many individuals across the country, including Ohio, are reluctant to file for bankruptcy. They fear that they will lose their valuable possessions, such as their home, motor vehicle, real estate and other assets to creditors. Additionally, some people find it tricky to navigate federal bankruptcy exemptions and state-specific exemptions, adding to an already complicated situation. 

Fortunately, the government offers exemptions to protect specific assets or collections. An experienced and knowledgeable Ohio bankruptcy lawyer will thoroughly explain your legal options. Exemptions in bankruptcy law are similar to the ones in tax law. For example, when you calculate your taxes, exempt income is income that you get to keep. Bankruptcy exemptions determine the property you can keep safe from your creditors. And like most states, Ohio also has a set of bankruptcy exemptions that filers can use to protect their property, such as a vehicle or home when filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. 

When you file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio, the court will appoint a bankruptcy trustee. The trustee has the authority to sell your non-exempt assets in order to pay your creditors. The trustee, however, can’t sell your exempt assets to pay your creditors. In fact, you can protect most of your assets, including things like your Roth IRA, IRA, and burial plot.

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Does Ohio allow the use of federal bankruptcy exemptions?

Although some states in the country allow people to choose between the federal bankruptcy exemptions and state exemptions, this option is not available if you are filing bankruptcy in Ohio. Ohio, like many other states, has its own bankruptcy exemptions. If you’ve lived in Ohio for at least 2 years when filing your case, you have to use the Ohio bankruptcy exemptions and can’t use federal exemptions

Note that one great advantage of using state bankruptcy exemptions in Ohio is that you will have an additional list of bankruptcy exemptions that might be available to you. So, while you have to use Ohio bankruptcy exemptions if you file a bankruptcy in the state, you can use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions as well. These exemptions protect certain qualifying property, like federal and military retirement benefits.

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Ohio Bankruptcy Exemptions

Whether you file bankruptcy in Ohio or any other part of the country, most of the basics of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy process are quite similar. You will agree to place your assets, such as bank accounts, temporarily under the control of the Ohio bankruptcy court. And in exchange a vast majority of your debts will be forgiven, including all your unsecured debts, such as credit card debt, giving you a fresh start. Bankruptcy exemptions in Ohio permit you to keep some of your assets and property safe from being liquidated (sold). Your property will become part of your bankruptcy estate and is split into 2 basic piles: exempt property and nonexempt property. 

Exemptions can either protect the full value of your asset or up to a specific monetary amount. And if all your property is exempt, you may even discharge your debts without losing any asset, which is great. However, keep in mind that you have to “claim” these exemptions in your Ohio bankruptcy filing; otherwise, they won’t apply.

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Real Property - The Ohio Homestead Exemption

Bankruptcy exemptions in Ohio will protect your property, including your most valuable items, such as your house and retirement funds. The homestead exemption in the state protects a specific amount of equity in your home from your creditors. The homestead exemption in Ohio allows you to protect up to $145,425 of equity in real property you use as a residence. Note - this is about equity, not the value of the property or the debt. For example, if you have a home in Cleveland worth $460,000, but if you’re underwater with a sizable mortgage balance of $500,000, then there is no equity in the home. Therefore, there is nothing for your bankruptcy trustee to come after if you file Chapter 7 in Ohio.

If you are able to remain current on your mortgage payments, you will likely keep your home in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy as long as the equity is less than $145,425. When determining whether your residence is exempt under the Ohio homestead exemption, you should keep in mind that the law is applicable to your primary residence only. So, real estate purchased as an investment property isn’t protected under the law. 

Wild Card Exemption

The wildcard exemption in bankruptcy allows you to pick an asset or assets that would otherwise be open to seizure and protect them using this exemption. You can claim a personal property exemption of up to $1,325 under Ohio Code 2329.66(A)(18) if you’re an individual filer. 

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Personal Property Exemptions

These bankruptcy exemptions cover your other assets, such as cars and health aids. Some personal property exemptions in the state may be for any combination of assets up to an aggregate amount. On the other hand, some exemptions apply only to specific items, like jewelry and household goods. Married couples are allowed to double these exemptions. Some of the Ohio bankruptcy exemptions filers may use to protect their property in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy include the following.

Motor Vehicle

When you are facing massive debt and have to declare bankruptcy, keeping your motor vehicle is very important. During a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the Ohio vehicle exemption will help determine if you can keep your vehicle. Keep in mind that your trustee can’t take and sell your car if its equity is lower than Ohio’s bankruptcy exemption amount of $4,000. The focus, for bankruptcy exemption purposes, is not on the Blue Book value but on the equity in the car. For instance, if you own a vehicle worth $10,000 with a $7,000 loan, your car would be protected under Ohio law as there is only $3,000 in equity. On the other hand, if you owned the vehicle outright, you will have nonexempt equity in the car, and your trustee would likely come after it.

Other Personal Property 

You can protect the following personal property. 

Personal property can include various items, such as furniture, electronics, and art, etc. 

  • You can protect up to $500 of cash on hand or deposit under Ohio Code 2329.66(A)(3)

  • You can protect up to $13,400 of value in various household goods under Ohio Code 2329.66(A)(4)(a). These goods include furnishings and electric appliances. The exemption, in this case, is up to a value of $625 for each individual item.

  • Jewelry is exempt up to $1,700 in value under Ohio Code 2329.66(A)(4)(b)

  • You can protect your interest in a single burial plot under Ohio Code 2329.66(A)(8)

  • You can protect up to $25,175 in value in a personal injury award under Ohio Code 2329.66 (A)(12)(c) if it is received within twelve months of your bankruptcy filing 

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Money Benefits

Pension Exemption

Ohio also offers you various other exemptions. You can benefit from this exemption if you have pensions or retirement funds, such as IRAs, ERISA qualified pensions and retirement plans, 403(b)s, 401(k)s, and public employee retirement benefits. 

You can protect tax-exempt retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, money purchase and profit-sharing plans, SIMPLE IRAs, SEP and defined benefit plans under Section 522. You can protect IRAs and Roth IRAs under Section 522(b)(3)(C)(n) of the Bankruptcy Code - up to a certain amount. Additionally, 

  • Sections 145.56 and 148.09 cover public employees

  • Section 146.13 covers the dependents of volunteer firefighters.

  • Section 742.47 covers police officers and firefighters

  • Ohio Code 2329.66 covers death benefits of public safety officers; these include ERISA-qualified benefits, Roth IRAs, IRAs and Keoghs that are needed for support.

  • Ohio Code 3309.66 covers employees of public schools

  • Ohio Code 5505.22 covers employees of the state highway patrol

  • Ohio Code 3307.41 covers the state teacher retirement system.

The rule of thumb is that any pension that is covered under federal tax exemptions is typically considered fully exempt under the law.

Wage Exemption

You will also get a wage exemption under Ohio Code 2329.66. You can protect an amount, which is the higher of the two: 

  • Thirty times the federal hourly wage (minimum), or 

  • Minimum of 75 percent of disposable weekly earnings

Public Benefit Exemptions

Bankruptcy exemptions in Ohio provide exemptions for a variety of public benefits, such as workers’ compensation and crime victims’ benefits.

  • Ohio Code 2329.66(A)(9)(g) covers child tax credit and earned income tax credit

  • Ohio Code 2329.66 and 3304.19 cover vocational rehabilitation benefits

  • Ohio Code 2329.66 and 5115.06 cover disability assistance

  • Ohio Code 2329.66 and 4123.67 cover workers' compensation benefits

  • Ohio Code 2329.66 and 4141.32 cover unemployment compensation

  • Ohio Code 2329.66 and 5107.12 cover public assistance

Insurance

You can protect benevolent society benefits of up to $5,000 under Ohio Code 2329.66. And Ohio Code 2329.66 and 3917.05 cover group life insurance proceeds or policy. You can also protect fraternal society benefits under Ohio Code 2329.66 and 3921.18. You can also protect disability benefits necessary for support under Ohio Code 2329.66 and 3923.19. Life insurance proceeds for your spouse are exempt under Ohio Code 3911.12. You can also protect life insurance proceeds if your life insurance policy prohibits payment to creditors. This exemption is under Ohio Code 3911.14.

Alimony and Child Support 

Since certain family law orders are deemed important in the country as a matter of public policy, child support and alimony are considered exempt in Ohio to the extent that these payments are reasonably necessary for the ongoing support of the bankruptcy filer and any of her or his dependents. You can use Ohio Code 2329.66 to use this exemption.

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Other Ohio Exemptions

Tools of the Trade

You can protect up to $2,550 of value in books, implements, and tools of your trade, business or occupation.

Miscellaneous 

Business partnership property is exempt under Ohio Code 1775.24 and 2329.66. 529 savings plans are exempt under Ohio Code 2329.66(A)(10)(e), and you can protect $5,000 in benevolent society death benefits under Ohio Code 2329.66(A)(6)(a).

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Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy? 

Whether you are struggling to stay up with bills or deep in debt, there is a debt relief solution to all your financial problems. If you are filing for bankruptcy in Ohio, but are not sure which Ohio bankruptcy exemptions will apply to your individual situation, consider talking to a bankruptcy attorney in the state. Experienced bankruptcy lawyers in Ohio know all of the intricate details related to bankruptcy exemptions in the state.

Also, there are many other state laws limiting and regulating bankruptcy exemptions in the state. Things like jointly owned business and properties, endowments, benefits of dependents, and spouses, as well as insurance benefits can complicate the issue of Ohio bankruptcy. An attorney will help you make important decisions regarding your personal property and financial security. The attorney will tell you how exemptions work differently under Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

The above list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions that are available in Ohio. However, it does not include all bankruptcy exemptions. You may have to check the Ohio Revised Codes.  Also, some states often have certain qualification requirements for specific exemptions. If you are not able to afford a bankruptcy attorney to help you, you can take this simple and short quiz in order to find out if Upsolve can help you. 

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About the authors

The Upsolve Team
Upsolve is lucky to have an incredible team of contributing writers all over the country to help us keep our content up to date, informative, and helpful for everyone who visits upsolve.org!

Andrea Wimmer, Esq.

Andrea practiced exclusively as debtors’ counsel in consumer chapter 7 and 13 cases for more than 10 years before joining Upsolve, first as a contributing writer and editor and ultimately joining the team full time in August 2019. While in private practice, Andrea handled all ban... read more

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