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West Palm Beach Bankruptcy & Business Attorneys > > Bankruptcy Attorneys > State Versus Federal Exemptions in a Bankruptcy Case

State Versus Federal Exemptions in a Bankruptcy Case


If you are considering a personal bankruptcy filing in South Florida, it is essential to learn about exemptions and how they work. Any initial research into bankruptcy exemptions will yield information about federal exemptions and state exemptions. As such, you likely have questions about which exemptions will be applicable to your case. You might be wondering if you can choose between federal exemptions and Florida exemptions, or whether you can mix and match during the bankruptcy process, and use both federal and state bankruptcy exemptions. Generally speaking, you cannot mix and match federal and state bankruptcy exemptions. Some states do permit debtors to choose to use federal exemptions, but most debtors in Florida should expect to use the state exemptions set forth in the Florida Statutes.

One of the experienced bankruptcy attorneys in West Palm Beach at our firm can provide you with additional information about how exemptions work in Florida bankruptcy cases and how they are likely to apply to your case.

Florida Requires Debtors to Use State Exemptions 

As we noted above, some states allow debtors to choose between federal and state exemptions, but you cannot do that in Florida. Instead, you will need to use the Florida exemptions (unless you do not yet qualify given the length of your residency in the state, which we will explain below).

Learning More About Florida’s State Exemptions 

Florida has a wide range of bankruptcy exemptions. Examples of state exemptions that are commonly used in individual bankruptcy cases include but are not limited to:

  • Homestead exemption (you can exempt all of the equity in your home);
  • Personal property exemption (you can exempt property of your choosing up to $1,000, or up to $4,000 if you do not use the homestead exemption);
  • Savings accounts for education, health, and hurricane damage;
  • Home health aids;
  • Motor vehicle exemption (you can exempt up to $1,000 of equity in a motor vehicle);
  • Pensions and retirement accounts (you can exempt all public retirement benefits, and often the majority of tax-exempt retirement accounts); and
  • Wages (you can exempt up to $750 per week).

Can Other State or Federal Exemptions Ever Apply? 

When a debtor has not lived in Florida for a long enough period of time prior to filing for bankruptcy, they will need to use the exemptions of the state where they lived previously. More specifically, you must live in the state of Florida for at least 730 days before you file for bankruptcy in order to be eligible to use Florida’s exemptions, including Florida’s homestead exemption. Otherwise, you will use the exemptions for the state that you lived in during the two-year period prior to filing for bankruptcy.

Contact a West Palm Beach Bankruptcy Lawyer 

When you have any questions about how Florida exemptions will apply to your personal bankruptcy case, one of our experienced West Palm Beach bankruptcy attorneys at Kelley, Kaplan & Eller can assist you. We have years of experience representing individual and business debtors in South Florida, and we can tell you more about the bankruptcy process more generally or begin working with you on your case.



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