Some Assets Are Protected When Filing an Arizona Bankruptcy
Even if you are faced with a bankruptcy, it may be comforting to know that some of your assets may be protected by bankruptcy “exemption” laws. If some of your assets fall into these exempted categories, then you as the debtor will be allowed to keep these assets after filing for bankruptcy. The asset, however, can only be protected if the court determines that the asset is within the allowable values as per state regulation. Some states follow the federal government’s list of bankruptcy exemptions. Arizona is a state that has its own exemptions, and the list of exemptions and maximum value limits is much friendlier to debtors in Arizona that in states that follow federal guidelines. Arizona allows more assets with a greater allowable value than many other states.
The homestead exemption protects the home of a single or married debtor as long as he resides in the home as his primary residence. The home can have up to $150,000 in equity and still be protected in a bankruptcy. As with all exemptions, any equity over that amount is not protected. A debtor might be required to pay the amount of excess equity to the bankruptcy court in order to prevent the bankruptcy from being dismissed. A bankruptcy trustee might also choose to force the sale of the home, giving the bankruptcy filer the $150,000 to which he is entitled, and the rest of the proceeds will be distributed to the creditors by the court. Only one homestead exemption may be used in a bankruptcy.
The vehicle exemption allows a bankruptcy filer to keep his vehicle as long as it has less than $5,000 in equity. A married couple who files for bankruptcy protection can use two, $5,000 exemptions toward two vehicles. Any vehicle equity over those amounts will be treated as it would with the homestead exemption.
The personal property exemption includes household furniture, furnishings, and appliances. A single debtor can protect up to $4,000 in used value of these assets and a married couple can protect $8,000 in used value. A detailed list of these assets must be provided to the court by the debtor.
Other, miscellaneous assets are protected up to specific values set by the bankruptcy laws. Tools and equipment used in commercial activity are protected. Wedding jewelry, clothing, weapons, hobby equipment, books, musical instruments, and certain life insurance proceeds, all have their own value limits set by the bankruptcy code.
Several types of retirement assets also are protected by bankruptcy laws. These include qualified retirement assets, such as IRA, 401k, state retirement funds and so on. These are protected with no limit on their value.
If an asset does not have a present, vested value at the time of filing, then typically it is protected under the bankruptcy code. Such assets include annuities that are not yet vested, future interest in a business as established by the corporate bylaws, and employee stock purchase plans that are not yet vested.