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Can Florida Residents Use Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions?

When you file for bankruptcy, there are some things you have the legal right to protect. In nearly every case, bankruptcy does not leave a person penniless and without any personal belongings. Debtors are allowed to keep some property that enables them to make a fresh start once their bankruptcy is complete. To benefit from these exemptions, property must be listed as exempt on a bankruptcy application, which is something your bankruptcy attorney can help you do when you file.

Exemptions are usually determined by state law, though in some states, debtors have the option of choosing whether they want to use their state’s exemption criteria or the federal criteria. Florida is not one of those states and anyone filing for bankruptcy in Florida must use the state exemptions.

Federal exemptions include homestead, motor vehicle, jewelry, household goods, tools of the trade, and exemptions related to life insurance, health aids, domestic maintenance, personal injury awards, social security, veterans benefits, disability and public assistance, and compensation received as the victim of a crime. There are also exemptions related to retirement accounts, education IRAs and pre-purchased tuition credits, and a generous wild card exemption.

What are the Florida Exemptions?

Florida State exemptions are similar the federal exemptions, but the specific amounts vary from the federal amounts. The state is also known for its generous homestead benefit that allows bankruptcy filers to exempt an unlimited amount of value in their home or other property covered by the homestead exemption. The only restriction is the property cannot be larger than a half-acre in a municipality or 160 acres elsewhere, and the filer must have owned the property for 1,215 days prior to the bankruptcy filing

If you have questions about Florida bankruptcy exemptions or you would like to know more about the difference between Florida and federal exemptions, we can help. Contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Geller at 813.254.5696 to discuss your situation and to learn how bankruptcy can help you.

For a specific listing of Florida bankruptcy exemptions in addition to the state’s homestead exemption, see below:

• Personal property up to $1,000
• Education savings, health savings, and hurricane savings
• Prescribed health aids
• Prepaid medical savings account and health savings deposits
• Up to $1,000 of motor vehicle equity
• Head of family wages up to $750 per week
• Smaller portion of the earnings of a person other than the head of family
• Federal government employees’ pension payments needed for support and received up to three months prior to filing
• Wildcard Exemption of $4,000 if the homestead exemption was unused
• A variety of types of pensions
• Public payments as listed in the federal exemptions (though Florida does not use Federal exemptions, it does in this case)
• Workers compensation benefits
• Crime victims’ compensation benefits
• Alimony and Child Support Exemptions
• Alimony and child support
• Proceeds of a life insurance policy payable to a specific beneficiary
• Portions of the value of a life insurance policy
• Disability income benefits
• Fraternal benefit society benefits
• Damages to employees for injuries or death incurred in hazardous occupations

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At the Tampa Bay law firm, the Law Offices of Robert M. Geller, P.A., we help people with consumer bankruptcy matters in the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg,  Florida communities such as Clearwater,     St. Petersburg, Tampa, Thonotosassa, Riverview, Lutz, Plant City, Brandon, Carrollwood, Wesley Chapel, St. Petersburg Beach, Lakeland, Mulberry, Dade City, Pinellas Park, Largo, Seminole, Odessa, Oldsmar and Lithia, and counties such as Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, Polk County and Manatee County.