When you file bankruptcy, the terms of your case are dictated by either federal or state guidelines. Here in Florida, we have specific bankruptcy exemptions that must be applied to our filing and override federal rules if there is a discrepancy. The good news is that Florida exemptions are typically more generous than those offered under federal law. 

If you are considering a Florida bankruptcy, here is the exemption information you need to know. 

  • Homestead Exemption: Florida’s homestead exemption allows the individual to exempt any equity in a home. The exemption dictates that if you own your home with no mortgage debt, creditors cannot compel a home sale – no matter the property’s value. A homeowner is required to have owned their home for a minimum of 1,215 days before filing bankruptcy. Otherwise, the federal exemption regarding the home must be used. 
  • Personal Property Exemption: Several personal property categories are exempt in a Florida bankruptcy. These include – but are not limited to – personal property of up to $1,000 ($4,000 if a homestead exemption does not apply); health savings, education savings, and hurricane savings; tax credits and refunds; and prescribed home health aids.
  • Motor Vehicle Exemption: Florida allows an exemption for up to $1,000 of the equity in a motor vehicle. This amount is typically too low, and many of those who file bankruptcy in Florida lose their vehicles unless the trustee draws up an alternate agreement.
  • Wage Exemption: Head of the family wages are considered fully exempt up to $750 per week. This exemption applies to paid and deposited for up to six months before the filing. Other members of the family are allowed to protect up to 75% of their wages, or 30-times the federal minimum wage, whichever is greater. 
  • Alimony and Child Support Exemption: Child support and alimony payments are considered exempt if reasonably necessary for support.
  • Wildcard Exemption: A wildcard exemption can be utilized if the homestead exemption does not apply to the filing. A Florida wildcard exemption can be applied to up to $4,000 of personal property or $8,000 if spouses file jointly. Homeowners may claim the wildcard exemption if they owe their lender more than the home is worth.
  • Pension Exemptions: Most pension and retirement funds are exempt, including 401(k) ‘s, 403(b) ‘s, profit-sharing plans, money purchase plans, IRAs and Roth IRAs, and other defined benefit plans, teachers’ retirement benefits, public employee retirement benefits, and firefighter and police pensions.
  • Benefits Exemption: Filers in Florida can exempt Social Security benefits, veterans’ benefits, workers’ compensation, unemployment benefits, most crime victim’s compensation benefits, local public assistance benefits, and reemployment assistance benefits.
  • Insurance Exemption: Florida residents may exempt proceeds from a life insurance policy, disability income benefits, the cash surrender value of a life insurance policy, or the proceeds of an annuity contract, excluding lottery winnings. 
  • Damage Award Exemption: Damages for injuries received while working in a hazardous occupation are exempt. All other damages from lawsuits or pending legal claims belong to the bankruptcy estate. 

Filing for bankruptcy is a complex process, and individuals may not realize the exemptions that are available to them. That is why it is so important to hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney to help guide you through the process.

The law offices of Richard Ellis have the bankruptcy experience you can trust to guide you through the process. Call today for an initial consultation and to learn more about your bankruptcy options.