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Florida Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Exemptions: What Exemptions Are Available?

Understanding Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions 

When filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida it is crucial to understand Florida exemptions, when can they be applied, and what property can be protected. Florida has some of the most generous exemptions in the country. This article discusses in detail each Florida exemption, what property is protected, and when can exemptions be applied when filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida.

Before discussing Florida exemptions, it is important to note why exemptions are so important. Exemptions determine what property you can keep after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida. When filing for bankruptcy all property of the Debtor, the individual or couple filing for bankruptcy, becomes the property of the bankruptcy estate. Unless properly exempted, their property can be liquidated or sold to repay creditors. Because a Chapter 7 bankruptcy can have serious implications including the possible loss of property, filing with an experienced Florida bankruptcy attorney can help you navigate the legal process, understand Florida bankruptcy law, and avoid unnecessary pitfalls.

Does Florida Allow Federal Exemptions?

The answer is both “yes” and “no”. Although Bankruptcy is governed by federal law, the state of Florida has opted out of federal exemptions. Florida exemptions are used when the individual filing bankruptcy has lived in the state of Florida for at least 730 days immediately preceding the date the bankruptcy is filed. Florida allows for Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions when the 730-day rule requirement is not meant.

How To Claim Your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Exemptions

In order to claim Florida exemptions in your bankruptcy petition and schedules, you must have lived in the state of Florida for at least 730 days (2 years) immediately before the time you file your bankruptcy case. This is commonly referred to as the “730-day rule” and it is used so that individuals cannot simply move to a state with more generous exemptions and file for bankruptcy there. If you do not meet the 730-day rule, you will have to examine the applicability of federal exemptions or the exemptions of another state. Benefiting from exemptions is not automatic. In order to use Florida exemptions, the appropriate exemption must be listed in Schedule C of the bankruptcy schedules. 

What Property Is Exempt From Seizure In A Chapter 7 Bankruptcy In Florida

Property that is properly claimed as exempt in Schedule C of the bankruptcy schedules is exempt from seizure in a chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida. To answer what property is exempt from seizure, we must first define what the term “property” means in a bankruptcy context and then what property can be exempted.

The term “property” refers to all of the Debtor’s property including any property in which the Debtor has an interest at the time of filing the Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It also includes expected property to be received by the Debtor after the filing of the bankruptcy such as money owed to the Debtor, tax refunds, proceeds from a claim or lawsuit, and an inheritance from someone who passed away. When a person files for bankruptcy, all of the Debtor’s property becomes a part of the bankruptcy estate and is subject to liquidation by a Chapter 7 trustee. Below is a list of properties that can be exempted when filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida. 

What Are Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Exemptions In Florida

Florida exemptions from creditors are listed in the Florida bankruptcy exemption statutes. Below you will find a list of Florida exemptions, the relevant Florida exemption statute, and common examples of how and when they can be used.

Keep in mind that these exemptions must be listed or “claimed” in your bankruptcy Schedule C for the exemptions to apply. It is important to note that certain exemptions protect the entire value of a specific type of property such as retirement accounts regardless of the amounts inside the account. Other exemptions only protect up to a specific amount in certain types of property such as a vehicle (more on that below). 

The Florida Homestead Exemption

Florida’s homestead exemption is one of the most generous exemptions. You can protect an unlimited amount of equity in your homestead property so long as the property isn’t larger than half ( ½) an acre in a municipality or 160 acres elsewhere. Also, you must have owned the property for at least 1,215 days before the bankruptcy filing. If you have not owned your property for at least 1,215 days before you file, your homestead exemption is limited to $189,050, Florida. Const. Art. X, § 4(a)(1); Fla Stat Ann Secs. 222.01 & 222.02.

The Florida Mobile Home

Individuals who own their mobile home or modular home and use it as their homestead may claim this exemption to protect 100% of the equity of their mobile home, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.05.

The Florida Personal Property Exemption

Individuals may exempt the value of up to $1,000 in personal property or up to $2,000 if filing a Joint Bankruptcy with their spouse, Fla. Const. Art. X, § 4(a)(2). This exemption is normally applied to personal property listed under Schedule B of the Bankruptcy filing. 

Here are some of the most common types of personal property listed under Schedule B of your bankruptcy where this exemption may apply: 

  • Household Goods and Furnishings
  • Electronics
  • Collectibles of Value
  • Equipment for sports and hobbies
  • Firearms
  • Clothes
  • Jewelry
  • Non-farm animals
  • Cash
  •  Deposits of money such as Checking, savings or other financial accounts
  • Tax Refunds
  • Motor vehicles

The Florida Wildcard Exemption

This is more commonly referred to as the “wildcard” exemption. Individuals who do not claim or benefit from the Florida homestead exemption may protect up to $4,000 in personal property or up to $8,000 if filing a joint bankruptcy together with their spouse, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(4). The Florida wildcard exemption can be a very powerful tool to protect your property from liquidation in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida. 

⇨ Tip #1: Keep in mind that if you are filing jointly with your spouse, the exemption allowance is $4,000 per spouse. This means that if you wish to protect any asset that is worth more than $4,000, you must only do so if the property is owned by both you and your spouse. 

The Florida Motor Vehicle Exemption

Individuals may protect up to $1,000 in the equity of (one) motor vehicle or up to $2,000 if filing a joint bankruptcy together with their spouse, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(1)

⇨ Tip #1: You may only use the $1,000 exemption on ONE vehicle. You may not split the $1,000 between more than one vehicle. i.e if you own a car with $700 in equity and own another vehicle with $900 in equity, you may only apply the $1,000 exemption in ONE of the vehicles. 

⇨ Tip #2: In a joint bankruptcy filing, you may use the $2,000 exemption on one vehicle ONLY IF both spouses own the vehicle. If the vehicle is only owned by one spouse, the limit is $1,000 per vehicle per spouse. 

The Florida Head of Household Exemption

This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect their disposable earnings. In order to do so, you must be the head of the family (provide more than half of the financial support for a minor to whom you have a legal or moral obligation of support) and have disposable income earnings of less than or equal to $750 a week Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.11(2)(a).

⇨ Tip #1: This exemption is most commonly used to protect funds in a bank account listed under Schedule B line number 17 (Deposits of Money) which can be traced to be disposable earnings from your job. It is also commonly used to protect cash listed under Schedule B line number 16 so long as it can be traced and determined to be your disposable earning from your job. 

⇨ Tip #2: You may not use this exemption if you are self-employed and/or running your own business. This exemption applies specifically to employees and NOT individuals who run their own business. 

Other Florida Bankruptcy Exemptions

Retirement Funds and Profit-Sharing Plans

Retirement Funds and Profit-Sharing Plans exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.21(2). This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect retirement and profit-sharing plans qualified under IRC.

This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of the funds in their retirement account/profit-sharing plan account. Such retirement/profit-sharing accounts are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 21 of the bankruptcy schedules.

⇨ Tip #1: Keep in mind that if you withdraw funds out of your retirement account, said withdrawn funds will NOT be protected.

Government Deferred Retirement Compensation Account

Government Deferred Retirement Compensation Account exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 112.215(10)(a). This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect a government deferred retirement compensation account. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of the funds in their retirement accounts. Such retirement accounts are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 21.

Retirement Account held by Public Officers and Employees

Retirement Account held by Public Officers and Employees exemption in Florida. This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect retirement accounts held by public officers and employees. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of the funds in their retirement account, Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 121.131, 121.055 (6)(e). Such retirement accounts are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 21.

State officers and Employees’ Retirement Account

State officers and Employees’ Retirement Account exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 122.15. This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect retirement accounts held by state officers and employees. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of the funds in their retirement account. Such retirement accounts are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 21.

Firefighters Retirement Account

Firefighters Retirement Account exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 175.241. This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect retirement accounts held by firefighters. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of the funds in their retirement account. Such retirement accounts are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 21.

Police Officers Retirement Account

Police Officers Retirement Account exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 185.25. This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect retirement accounts held by Police officers. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of the funds in the retirement account. Such retirement accounts are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 21.

Life Insurance Policies 222.13

Life Insurance Policies exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.13. This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect life insurance proceeds. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of said proceeds. Such life insurance proceeds are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 31.

Life Insurance Policies 222.14

Life Insurance Policies (cash surrender value) exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.14. This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect life insurance policies (cash surrender value). This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of said value. Such life insurance policies are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 31.

Annuities Payment

Annuities Payment exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.14. This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect annuities payments. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of said funds. 

Annuities are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 23 (Annuities) or funds in a bank account listed under Schedule B line number 17 (Deposits of Money) which can be traced/determined to be annuity payments.

Reemployment Assistance or Unemployment Compensation

Reemployment Assistance or Unemployment Compensation exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 222.15, 222.16. This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect reemployment assistance or unemployment compensation.

This exemption is most commonly used to protect funds in a bank account listed under Schedule B line number 17 (Deposits of Money) which can be traced/determined to be reemployment assistance or unemployment compensation.

Disability Income Benefits

Disability Income Benefits exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.18. This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect their Disability income benefits. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of said funds. This exemption is most commonly used to protect funds in a bank account listed under Schedule B line number 17 (Deposits of Money) which can be traced/determined to be Disability Income benefits.

Child Support Income

Child Support Income exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.201(1). This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect their Child Support Income. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of said funds. This exemption is most commonly used to protect funds in a bank account listed under Schedule B line number 17 (Deposits of Money) which can be traced/determined to be Child Support Income.

Social Security or Public Assistance Benefits

Social Security or Public Assistance Benefits exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.201; 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(10)(A). This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect their Social Security or local public assistance benefits. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of said funds. 

This exemption is most commonly used to protect funds in a bank account listed under Schedule B line number 17 (Deposits of Money) which can be traced/determined to be Social Security benefits or local public assistance benefits. 

Veterans Benefit

Veterans Benefit exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.201, 744.626; 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(10)(B). This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect their Veteran’s benefits. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of said funds. This exemption is most commonly used to protect funds in a bank account listed under Schedule B line number 17 (Deposits of Money) which can be traced/determined to be Veteran’s benefits.

Alimony or Spousal Support

Alimony or Spousal Support exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.201, 11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(10)(D).

This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect their Alimony, support or separate maintenance income, to the extent necessary for support. This exemption is most commonly used to protect funds in a bank account listed under Schedule B line number 17 (Deposits of Money) which can be traced/determined to be Alimony, support, or separate maintenance income.

Workers Compensation Benefits

Workers Compensation Benefits exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 440.22. This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect their Worker’s Compensation benefits. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of the said funds. This exemption is most commonly used to protect funds in a bank account listed under Schedule B line number 17 (Deposits of Money) which can be traced/determined to be Worker’s Compensation benefits. 

Exemption of Assets from Legal Process

Exemption of assets in qualified tuition programs, medical savings accounts, Coverdell education savings accounts, and hurricane savings accounts from legal process, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.22.

This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect College tuition and savings accounts, health savings accounts, and hurricane savings accounts. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of the said funds.

  • College tuition and savings accounts are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 24.
  • Health savings accounts and hurricane savings accounts are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 17 (Deposits of Money).

Health Aids Exemption

Health Aids exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(2). This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect their Health aids, which must be professionally prescribed. This exemption allows individuals to exempt 100% of the said assets. Health Aids are commonly listed under Schedule B line number 14.

Tax Refund Earned Income Credit

Tax Refund Earned Income Credit exemption in Florida, Fla. Stat. Ann. § 222.25(3). This exemption may be used by individuals who wish to protect the earned income credit portion of the Tax Refund. 

The Earned Income Credit portion of your Tax refund is commonly listed either under Schedule B line 28 (Tax Refund) or listed under Schedule B line number 17 – funds in your bank account so long as the funds can be traced/determined to be the earned income credit portion of your Tax Refund.

Contact a Bankruptcy Attorney

If you find yourself in a situation wherein you must file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida, understanding bankruptcy exemptions, your rights, and legal protections are key. Florida has some of the most generous exemption policies in the country, but you must know what to do in order to protect your personal property.

When filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Florida, choose a bankruptcy attorney you can trust. Our bankruptcy lawyers have over 20 years of experience in helping our clients navigate the bankruptcy process. A bankruptcy lawyer will work with you to help you achieve the best possible outcome in this difficult time.

Call a bankruptcy attorney or contact us online to learn more about Florida bankruptcy exemptions, federal bankruptcy exemptions, personal property exemptions, or any other type of Chapter 7 filing questions you may have.

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