Massachusetts Bankruptcy Exemptions

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Like all states, Massachusetts has its own set of exemptions that you may use when filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Exemptions determine what property (such as a home, car, instrument, retirement account, etc.) you may keep in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and how much you must pay to certain creditors in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

In Massachusetts, you may use either the Massachusetts state exemptions (listed below), or the federal bankruptcy exemptions (you can find these in Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions). You cannot mix and match from each list. If you choose to use the Massachusetts state exemptions, you may also use any applicable amounts in the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.

Unless noted otherwise, if a couple is married and filing jointly in Massachusetts, each spouse may claim the full amount of each exemption. This is informally called “doubling.”

To learn more about bankruptcy exemptions, including how they work, which state exemption system you should use, and special rules for the homestead exemption, see Bankruptcy Exemptions – What Can I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy? 

Massachusetts Bankruptcy Exemptions

Unless otherwise noted, all law references are to the Massachusetts General Laws Annotated, in the form title of "title number-section number." 

Homestead

188-1, 2, 5 - Automatic homestead for principal residence (including mobile home) to $125,000; to $500,000 if homestead declaration is recorded and complies with MA law; spouses may not double; trust beneficiaries are eligible for exemption; owners with a disability or 62 or older may each exempt up to $500,000, but aggregate cannot be more than $1,000,000.

(In re Peirce, 467 BR 260 (Bankr. D Mass).)

188-2 - The spouse or children of a deceased owner may claim the homestead exemption.

209-1 - Tenancies by the entirety, regardless of value, are exempt as to the debts of one spouse, unless the debt was "incurred on account of necessaries" for either spouse or a family member.

Personal Property

235-34(4); 235-28A - 2 cows, 12 sheep, 2 swine, 4 tons of hay. Beds & bedding; heating unit, stove, refrigerator, freezer & hot water heater; clothing. Bibles & books to $500 total. Burial plots, tombs, & church pew. Cash for fuel, heat, water, or light to $500 per month. Cash to $2,500/month for rent, in lieu of homestead. Cooperative association shares to $100. Food or cash for food to $600. Jewelry to $1,225. Household furnishings to $15,000. Motor vehicle to $7,500; to $15,000 if used by elderly or disabled debtor. Sewing machine, computer, TV to $300. Trust company, bank, or credit union deposits to $2,500. 

79-6A - Moving expenses for eminent domain.

Wages  

246-28; 235-34(15) - Earned but unpaid wages up to 85% or 50 times the federal minimum wage.

Pensions

11 U.S.C. § 522 - Tax exempt retirement accounts (including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, and defined benefit plans). 

11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(C)(n) - IRAS and Roth IRAs to $1,171,150.

32-19 - Public employees.

32-41 - Private retirement benefits.

168-41 & 168-44 - Savings bank employees.

171-84 - Credit union employees.

235-34A & 246-28 - ERISA-qualified benefits, IRAs and Keoghs to specific limits included.

Public Benefits

115-5 - Veterans' benefits.

118-10 - AFDC

151A-36 - Unemployment compensation.

152-47 - Workers' compensation.

235-34 - Public assistance.

Tools of Trade

235-34 - Tools, implements and fixtures up to $5,000 total; materials you designed and procured up to $5,000; boats, nets, and fishing tackle of fisherman up to $1,500; arms, uniforms, and accoutrements you are required to keep.

Insurance

175-110A; 175-36B - Disability benefits up to $400 per week.

175-119A - Life insurance proceeds if policy prohibits use to pay creditors.

175-125 - Life or endowment policy, proceeds, dividends, interest, loan, cash, or surrender value.

175-126 - Life insurance policy if beneficiary is a married woman.

175-132C - Group annuity policy or proceeds.

175-135; 175-36 - Group life insurance policy.

175F-15 - Medical malpractice self-insurance.

176-22 - Fraternal benefit society benefits.

(In re Sloss, 279 BR 6 (Bankr. D Mass 2002).)

Miscellaneous

108A-25 - Business partnership property.

Wildcard

235-34(17) - $1,000 plus up to $5,000of unused automobile, tools of the trade, and household furniture exemptions.

Other 

Add any applicable Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions.

Confirming Exemptions

This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in Massachusetts. However, it may not include all exemptions, and states often create exceptions to specific exemptions. In addition, Massachusetts may have changed the amounts since this list was last updated in June of 2011. Consider cross-checking this list with www.legalconsumer.com, which updates the state exemption amounts regularly, or check with your local bankruptcy court. 

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