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Will I lose my property after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy?

If you are struggling under the weight of overwhelming debt, you may be considering your options on how to find relief from your situation. While you may have considered Chapter 7 bankruptcy as an option, you may be worried that you will lose your most important assets, such as your house and car, during the process. The good news is that Ohio, like many other states, offers property exemptions for those who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which will allow you to keep some of your assets.

Real and personal property

Under Ohio law, you may exempt some of your real and personal property up to certain amounts. What's more, couples who file jointly can effectively double the exemption amounts.

  • Homestead exemption: If you are current on your mortgage payments and you owe less on your home than what it is worth, you can claim a homestead exemption up to $132,900. Married couples who are filing jointly can double that amount to $265,800. These amounts pertain to the amount of equity you have in the property, not necessarily to the overall appraised value of your home.
  • Vehicles: You may exempt up to $3,675 in the equity you have in your motor vehicle, and married couples can exempt up to $7,350.
  • Cash: You can exempt up to $450 of the liquid cash you have on hand or deposited in a bank account, $900 for married couples. This includes cash you may be receiving soon, such as from a tax refund.
  • Household goods: For other items in your home, such as clothing, furniture and other goods, you can exempt up to $575 for each item up to a maximum of $12,250. Married couples can double that amount to a maximum of $24,500.
  • Jewelry: The exemption amount for jewelry is $1,550 total or $3,100 for married couples.
  • Tools of the trade: If you rely on certain assets and property in order to do your job, you can exempt this property up to a maximum amount of $2,325 for an individual or $4,650 for a joint filing.

Benefits, insurance proceeds and compensation

The Ohio exemption code allows you to exempt most of your retirement funds, pensions and insurance accounts. Any payments you receive for workers' compensation, unemployment or disability benefits should also be safe, as should any child support and/or alimony payments. You may also exempt a considerable amount of your wages. The amount of wages you can exempt will depend on several factors, so it's best to consult with an attorney for more information on this exemption.

Wildcard exemptions

Aside from the exemptions listed, Ohio also allows for wildcard property exemptions. This means that you can apply an additional $1,225 ($2,450 jointly) to certain other property exemptions to increase the overall amount of the exemption.

Other exemptions and legal help

The list of possible exemptions you can claim is quite large. As such, you will need to discuss the matter with your bankruptcy attorney to ensure you are taking advantage of all the exemptions offered. While filing for bankruptcy is not an easy decision to make, sometimes it is the only decision that makes sense. Knowing that you will not necessarily lose everything you have when filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy should set your mind at ease and provide some comfort as you seek to discharge your debts.

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