Do I Get To Keep My House And Other Assets In Bankruptcy?

When an individual or married couple files for Bankruptcy, an Estate is created. In this Estate, all of the individual’s or the couple’s belongings are considered to be part of the Estate. These belongings can be protected by listing them as exempt when your Bankruptcy case is filed. There are several rules as to what can be exempted and what cannot. In most cases, if a married couple files together, the amount of the exemptions are doubled. Property that is not properly exempted will be taken from the estate and used to pay off creditors of the Estate. For that reason, it is crucial to plan for this so that little or nothing will be available to creditors as a result of filing for Bankruptcy.

In December of 2010, Governor Patterson signed into law a bill greatly enhancing New York’s Bankruptcy exemptions.  One major change is that effective on January 22, 2011, New York residents can choose between either the Federal or the New York State Exemption statutes. Here are some of the Key changes for the New York Bankruptcy Exemptions:

Old New York Exemptions Current New York Exemptions

Notes

Homestead
$50,000 $150,000

(New York, Suffolk, Nassau, Kings, Queens, Bronx, Richmond, Rockland and Westchester Counties)

 

$125,000

(Dutchess, Albany, Orange, Columbia, Saratoga and Ulster Counties

 

$75,000

(All other Counties)

*Doubled for married couples filing together
Motor Vehicle
$2,400 $4,000 *New exemption raised to $10,000 if for a disabled equipped vehicle
Cash Exemption (“Wildcard”)
None $1,000 Available if homestead exemption is taken.  Can be used for personal property
Watch and Jewelry
Watch and  a Wedding Ring (up to $35) 1 Wedding Ring

Watch, Jewelry and Art worth up to $1,000

Tools of the Trade
$600 $3,000
Aggregate Exemption for Cash and Household goods
$5,000 $10,000

It is important to note that while a Debtor cannot mix and match among the Federal and New York Exemptions, a Debtor can change from the entire list of New York Exemptions to the Federal Exemptions after filing.  If a married couple files a joint petition, they must use the same exemptions.