When you file for bankruptcy in Jacksonville, Florida, a certain amount of your personal property is exempt from collection by creditors. Generally, you are allowed to keep $1,000 in personal property, $1,000 in vehicle equity and then either a qualified homestead or $4,000 dollars in additional personal property.
To be a qualified homestead the property must be under 1/2 acre if within a municipality or up to 160 acres if in an unincorporated area. Abutting lots can qualify as long as the land maximums aren’t exceeded.
The value you assign to your property should be the approximate auction value of the property. That is to say, how much do you think you could get for that property at a bankruptcy auction? My bedroom set may have cost $1,200 ten years ago, but it is certainly not worth that today, especially at an auction. Evaluating your property is difficult and can sometimes require professional assistance. What is more important is that you are thorough in creating a complete list of what you own. Omitting valuable property interests by accident can look like an attempt to commit fraud. There are cases in which an appraiser will be sent to your house to evaluate your property. It is rare, but it does happen. You can, of course, pick and choose which property you keep based on it’s value. If you don’t care for an old, but valuable, wedding present you never use, you can list that property but not elect to exempt it, exempting something else instead.
Sometimes we run into the situation where a person has more property than can be exempted. This is often the case for automobiles which are owned outright. If a person’s car is worth $5,000 and they keep a home and $1,000 in personal property, then they only have the $1,000 exemption for vehicle equity to apply toward this car. That leaves them with $4,000 in vehicle equity that is unprotected and could be subject to seizure by the trustee for the benefit of the creditors. What we can do in this situation is offer the Trustee a sum of money, typically around 85% of the unexempt value in exchange for keeping the car. The trustee often accepts the discount because if they had to repossess the item there is a cost to tow it and store it as well as to auction it off. The agreed sum can be paid to the trustee over an agreed to period of time, which is sometimes as long as a year. This is called a, “buy back” because in essence, you are buying the equity in your car back from the trustee. The trustee will even file a, “Notice of Private Sale” in the case indicating that the vehicle was sold to the debtor.
Every state has different kinds and amounts of property which can be claimed as exempt. There are also residency requirements to file using those exemptions. To use most of the Florida exemptions, the debtor must have resided here for at least 91 of the last 180 days. If the debtor wishes to exempt a homestead that is valued at more than $125,000, then they must have owned the property for at least 1215 days.
If you have questions regarding the best way of structuring your bankruptcy exemptions to maximize the property you have after bankruptcy, contact a Atlantic Beach Bankruptcy Attorney or call us at (904) 685-1200 for a free consultation.