What Can I Keep In Bankruptcy?



Assets You Keep in Vermont Bankruptcy

People considering bankruptcy are often afraid that they will have to start their entire lives over, with nothing. Common beliefs have had a devastating impact on many people and their choices to refrain from filing for financial relief. Consequently, many people find themselves asking what they can keep after going through bankruptcy.

The purpose of bankruptcy is to provide someone who is overloaded with debt the opportunity to start over financially. As you can imagine, losing everything in bankruptcy would create a very tight financial situation for debtors and their families. Having to purchase all of your belongings again would hinder your ability to start over with a fresh financial start. Thankfully, this is not the case.

Filing for bankruptcy does not mean you have to give up all of your possessions.  In Vermont you can opt for either the Federal exemptions or the State exemptions. Under the Vermont exemptions, you are able to keep the equity in your home up to $125,000 in value. Additionally, you can keep all property that is owned with your spouse as tenants by the entirety from creditors that have claims against only one spouse.  There are various other types of property that are exempt from collections, although many of these items are property you will need to live and work, such as clothing, money in retirement accounts, and household items, and various other larger possessions that are safeguarded as well. It is important that you are aware of your rights to maintain ownership over specific property types during and after a bankruptcy.

Having a lawyer who is knowledgeable in the application of the exemptions will help you maximize the value of your exemptions, by selecting either the Federal scheme of exemptions or the Vermont scheme and making certain to cover all the assets you own as may be allowed by the law. 

A debtor can also protect the following personal assets from creditors:

  1. the debtor’s interest, not to exceed $2,500.00 in aggregate value, in a motor vehicle or motor vehicles;
  2. the debtor’s interest, not to exceed $5,000.00 in aggregate value, in professional or trade books or tools of the profession or trade of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor;
  3. a wedding ring;
  4. the debtor’s interest, not to exceed $500.00 in aggregate value, in other jewelry held primarily for the personal, family or household use of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor;
  5. the debtor’s interest, not to exceed $2,500.00 in aggregate value, in household furnishings, goods or appliances, books, wearing apparel, animals, crops or musical instruments that are held primarily for the personal, family or household use of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor;
  6. growing crops, not to exceed $5,000.00 in aggregate value;
  7. the debtor’s aggregate interest in any property, not to exceed $400.00 in value, plus up to $7,000.00 of any unused amount of the exemptions provided under subdivisions (1), (2), (4), (5) and (6) of this section;
  8. one cooking stove, appliances needed for heating, one refrigerator, one freezer, one water heater, sewing machines;
  9. ten cords of firewood, five tons of coals or 500 gallons of oil;
  10. 500 gallons of bottled gas;
  11. one cow, two goats, 10 sheep, 10 chickens, and feed sufficient to keep the cow, goats, sheep or chickens through one winter;
  12. three swarms of bees and their hives with their produce in honey;
  13. one yoke of oxen or steers or two horses kept and used for team work;
  14. two harnesses, two halters, two chains, one plow, and one ox yoke;
  15. the debtor’s interest, not to exceed $700.00 in value, in bank deposits or deposit accounts of the debtor;
  16. the debtor’s interest in self-directed retirement accounts of the debtor, including all pensions, all proceeds of and payments under annuity policies or plans, all individual retirement accounts, all Keogh plans, all simplified employee pension plans, and all other plans qualified under sections 401, 403, 408, 408A or 457 of the Internal Revenue Code. However, an individual retirement account, Keogh plan, simplified employee pension plan, or other qualified plan, except a Roth IRA, is only exempt to the extent that contributions thereto were deductible or excludable from federal income taxation at the time of contribution, plus interest, dividends or other earnings that have accrued on those contributions, plus any growth in value of the assets held in the plan or account and acquired with those contributions. A Roth IRA is exempt to the extent that contributions thereto did not exceed the contribution limits set forth in section 408A of the Internal Revenue Code, plus interest, dividends or other earnings on the Roth IRA from such contributions, plus any growth in value of the assets held in the Roth IRA acquired with those contributions. No contribution to a self-directed plan or account shall be exempt if made less than one calendar year from the date of filing for bankruptcy, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. Exemptions under this subdivision shall not exceed $5,000.00 for the purpose of attachment of assets by the office of child support pursuant to 15 V.S.A. § 799;
  17. professionally prescribed health aids for the debtor or a dependent of the debtor;
  18. any unmatured life insurance contract owned by the debtor, other than a credit life insurance contract;
  19. property traceable to or the debtor’s right to receive, to the extent reasonably necessary for the support of the debtor and any dependents of the debtor:
    1. Social Security benefits;
    2. veteran’s benefits;
    3. disability or illness benefits;
    4. alimony, support or separate maintenance;
    5. compensation awarded under a crime victim’s reparation law;
    6. compensation for personal bodily injury, pain and suffering or actual pecuniary loss of the debtor or an individual on whom the debtor is dependent;
    7. compensation for the wrongful death of an individual on whom the debtor was dependent;
    8. payment under a life insurance contract that insured the life of an individual on whom the debtor was dependent on the date of that individual’s death;
    9. compensation for loss of future earnings of the debtor or an individual on whom the debtor was or is dependent;
    10. payments under a pension, annuity, profit-sharing, stock bonus, or similar plan or contract on account of death, disability, illness, or retirement from or termination of employment.

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Kohn Rath Danon Lynch & Scharf, LLP is a  Vermont law firm located in the Town of Hinesburg, providing a broad and comprehensive array of legal services to our clients.  Our attorneys have experience in many practice areas of the law.

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Roger E. Kohn
Roger E. Kohn
Partner - Former President of the Chittenden County Bar Association
David Rath
David Rath
Partner
Beth A. Danon
Beth A. Danon
Partner - Former President of the Vermont Association for Justice (the Vermont Trial Lawyers Association)
David W. Lynch
David W. Lynch
Partner

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