Bankruptcy

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

By Cara O'Neill, Attorney
Learn about bankruptcy exemptions in Maine.

July 24, 2017

Maine’s exemption statutes will tell you what property you can protect (exempt) if you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. What will happen to your nonexempt property will depend on the particular chapter that you file.

  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy trustee (the court-appointed official responsible for overseeing your matter), will sell any property nonexempt property and distribute the proceeds to creditors.
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The trustee won’t sell your property in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to keep it, necessarily. You must have sufficient income to pay your creditors the value of the nonexempt property in your three- to five-year repayment plan (otherwise, you’ll likely have to sell the property and pay the proceeds to the trustee as part of the repayment plan).

Like most states, Maine doesn’t give residents the option to use the federal exemptions; however, the federal “nonbankruptcy” exemptions are available in addition to Maine’s state exemptions.

Maine Property Exemptions

Unless otherwise noted, references are to the Maine Revised Statutes (Me. Rev. Stat.) You’ll find the statutes on the Maine Legislature website. Also, spouses filing jointly (together) can double the exemption amount as long as each has an ownership interest in the property.

Homestead

  • Homestead—$47,500 for a homestead or burial plot; $95,000 if dependents live with the filer; $95,000 if the filer is 60 years or older; exempt proceeds of homestead sold up to six months before filing. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, §§ 4422(1)(A),(B),(C).)

Wages and Support

  • Support, alimony, or separate maintenance—amount needed for support. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(13)(D).)

Motor Vehicle

  • One motor vehicle—$5,000. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(2).)

Household Furnishings, Jewelry, and Clothing

  • Jewelry—$750. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(4).)
  • Household goods, furnishings, and clothing—$200 per item. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(3).)
  • One cooking stove, a furnace and fuel, and 1,000 gallons of gas or equivalent (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(6).)
  • Six months of food, seeds, growing equipment, and one season of feed (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(7).)
  • Prescribed health aids (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(12).)

Tools of the Trade

  • Tools of the trade—$5,000 worth of tools and professional books needed in a trade or profession. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(5).)
  • Farm implements (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(8).)
  • Commercial fishing boat—limits apply. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(9).)
  • Serviceperson’s arms and uniforms (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 37-A, § 1051.)

Retirement Accounts, Pensions, and Other Benefits

  • State employee, judges, and legislators’ retirement benefits (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 3, § 703, tit. 4, § 1203.)
  • Veterans, Social Security, unemployment, public assistance, disability, and illness benefits (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(13)(A)-(C), tit. 26, § 1044, tit. 39-A, § 106.)
  • Any benefit amount received due to illness, disability, death, age, or length of service needed for support (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(13)(E).)
  • Individual retirement plan—the greater of $15,000 or the amount necessary for support. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(13)(F).)
  • Aid to needy persons or dependent children (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 22, §§ 3180, 3753.)
  • Employee interest in a group annuity or pension trust (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 24-A, § 2432.)

Insurance

  • Fraternal society benefits (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 24-A, § 4118.)
  • Unmatured life insurance—$4,000 in cash value, dividends, or interest. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, §§ 4422(10),(11).)
  • Life insurance contract payments—amount reasonably necessary for support. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(14)(C).)
  • Group life and health insurance proceeds (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 24-A, § 2430.)
  • Individual annuity contract proceeds (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 24-A, § 2431.)

Miscellaneous

  • Personal injury payments—$12,500. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(14)(D).)
  • Crime victim reparation award (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(14)(A).)
  • Wrongful death payment—amount reasonably necessary for support. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(14)(B).)
  • Loss of future earnings award—amount reasonably necessary for support. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, § 4422(14)(E).)
  • Particular partnership property (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 31, § 305.)

Wildcard

  • Wildcard—$400 worth of any cash or assets of the filer’s choosing; $6,000 of unused homestead exemption can be used to protect additional household goods, tools of the trade, or particular injury award payments. (Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 14, §§ 4422(15),(16).)

This list is not exclusive—other exemptions might be available to you. Also, exemptions can change and are subject to conditions found in the statute. It’s important to independently verify exemption qualification or meet with a local bankruptcy lawyer.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Is all of my property exempt in bankruptcy?
  • Should I file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
  • Do I make enough to pay for my nonexempt property in Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
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