When filing either chapter 7 or chapter 13 bankruptcy, each individual debtor is allowed to exempt a limited amount of equity in real property, cash, personal assets and other property while still obtaining a discharge of most debts. Only when a debtor exceeds the available exemptions will they have “non-exempt” assets that will either be liquidated in chapter 7 or, alternatively, the debtor will effectively pay to keep over the duration of a chapter 13 plan.
Bankruptcy exemption law allows for the exclusion of certain assets from the bankruptcy estate and, thereby, protects such assets from the reach of either creditors or the bankruptcy trustee. When filing bankruptcy in Minnesota, a debtor elects to utilize either the federal exemptions or the Minnesota state exemptions. Since the federal exemptions offer a general catchall “wildcard” exemption that is favorable for most bankruptcy filers, a Minnesota debtor will usually only elect state exemptions when they have over $27,900 (or $55,800 for joint filings) in equity in a homestead (or, less commonly, a significant certain asset such as pending insurance proceeds or personal injury award). Most debtors however opt to use federal exemptions for the availability of up to a $15,425 “wildcard exemption” which can be used to protect any assets which are not otherwise protected under a separate federal exemption.
As of the date of this post, the federal exemptions provide for the following amounts per debtor:
Amount of Available Federal Exemption*
Equity in homestead property
$27,900 per debtor (double for joint filers)
Household goods, furniture and wearing apparel
Alimony / child support
unlimited so long as funds are necessary for support of the family
Unemployment / Disability benefits (future benefits only)
Social Security benefits (future benefits only)
Cash value of unmatured life insurance policy, certain other requirements having been met
Personal injury claims that are not yet settled and only including certain types of damages
$4,450 (only one vehicle per debtor)
ERISA-qualified retirement accounts such as 401(k), 403(b) and 408 plans
Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)
usually unlimited subject to certain limits on recent contributions
Other retirement benefit plans including Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA), Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS), and Teachers Retirement Association of Minnesota (TRA)
unlimited so long as the employee does not have a right to withdrawal of funds upon termination
Tools of trade (must be used in employment)
Workers Compensation claims
unlimited only if claim has not been settled or paid out (however proceeds already received can be exempted under Minnesota law)
Any other property not otherwise exempt under another other provision such as excess equity in a vehicle, cash, bank account balances, tax refunds, second vehicles, recreational equipment, stocks and bonds, ownership interest in a business, inheritance proceeds, claims against a business or individual, tax refunds, etc.
up to $15,425 total “wildcard” (d)(5) exemption
* These amounts are valid as of 2023, as last adjusted April 1, 2020, and adjust periodically. You should consult a bankruptcy attorney to analyze the available exemptions for your particular circumstances.