Bankruptcy

Can I Keep My Property If I File for Bankruptcy in Florida?

By Cara O'Neill, Attorney
Learn about the property you can protect if you file for bankruptcy in Florida.

July 21, 2017

When you file a bankruptcy case in Florida, you won’t have to give up all of your property. You’re allowed to exempt (keep) the things necessary to maintain a home and job using Florida bankruptcy exemptions.

If you’re filing a Chapter 7 case, you’ll likely be able to protect most, if not all, of your assets. The bankruptcy trustee—the official appointed by the court to manage your case—will sell any nonexempt property and distribute the proceeds to creditors.

It works a bit differently in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You’ll get to keep all of your property; however, the value of your nonexempt property will affect the amount you’ll pay each month in your three- to five-year repayment plan (the amount increases because you must pay your creditors for any nonexempt property you keep).

If you file a Florida bankruptcy, you can’t use the federal bankruptcy exemption scheme. Instead, you’ll use the Florida state exemptions and the federal “nonbankruptcy” exemptions.

Florida Property Exemptions

You’ll find commonly-used exemptions listed below (others that apply to you might exist). You can go to the Florida Statutes Annotated (Fla. Stat. Ann.) on the Florida State Legislature website for the full text of the law.

Homestead

  • Homestead—160 acres outside of a municipality or one-half acre within a municipality. You must meet length of ownership requirements—consult with a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney. (Fla. Const. art. X, § 4(a)(1), Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 222.01, 222.02.)

Wages and Support

  • Earnings (head of household)—$750 per week or greater of 75% or 30 times the federal minimum wage. (Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 222.11(2)(a),(b).)
  • Earnings (all others)—75% or 30 times the federal minimum wage. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.11(2)(c).)

Motor Vehicle

  • One motor vehicle—$1,000. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(1).)

Household Goods, Clothing, and Jewelry

  • Personal property (anything other than real estate)—$1,000. (Fla. Const. art. X, § 4(a)(2).)
  • Additional personal property (if homestead exemption not used)—$4,000. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(4).)
  • Prescribed health aids (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(2).)

Retirement Accounts, Pensions, and Other Benefits

  • Government employee benefits (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 112.215.)
  • Health insurance for public employees (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 112.363.)
  • Public employee retirement benefits (Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 121.131, 121.055(6)(e).)
  • State and county officers’ and employee retirement benefits (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 122.15.)
  • Firefighter’s retirement benefits (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 175.241.)
  • Police retirement benefits (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 185.25.)
  • Teacher’s retirement benefits (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 238.15.)
  • Disability benefits (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.18.)
  • Social Security and public assistance benefits (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.201; 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(10)(A).)
  • Unemployment compensation benefits (Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 222.201, 443.051; 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(10)(A).)
  • Workers’ compensation (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 440.22.)
  • Qualified retirement benefits, profit-sharing plans, annuities—per IRS 1986. (Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 222.21(2).)

Insurance

  • Benefits of a Fraternal Benefit Society (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 632.619.)
  • Life insurance proceeds (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.13.)
  • Life insurance policies—100% cash surrender value or annuity proceeds. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.13.)
  • Prepaid college trust fund (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.22.)
  • Medical savings account (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.22.)

Miscellaneous

  • Tax credits and refunds (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(3).)
  • Funeral costs—per Preneed Funeral Contract Consumer Protection Trust Fund. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 497.456.)
  • Particular partnership property (Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 620.153, 620.8307.)
  • Funds resulting from injury or work-related death (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 769.05.)
  • Crime victim’s compensation (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 960.14.)

The availability of exemptions, as well as the amounts, change periodically. You should verify all exemptions personally or consult with a bankruptcy attorney to ensure that you’re meeting all exemption requirements.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How much property will I lose, if any, if I choose to file for bankruptcy?
  • If I file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, can I sell nonexempt property rather than pay for it in my repayment plan?
  • What will happen if the trustee doesn’t agree with my exemptions?
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