Like all states, Tennessee 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. Some states allow debtors to choose between the state exemption system and a set of federal bankruptcy exemptions – but Tennessee is not one of them. In Tennessee, you must use the state exemptions below. In addition to this list, you may also use any applicable amounts in the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.
Unless noted otherwise, if a couple is married and filing jointly in Tennessee, 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?
Tennessee Bankruptcy Exemptions
Unless otherwise noted, all law references are to the Tennessee Code Annotated.
26-2-301 - $5,000; $7,500 for joint owners. Tenancies by the entirety are exempt without limit as to debts of one spouse. Spouse or child of deceased owner may claim. May also claim a life estate or a 2 to 15 year lease. If over 62 years of age, $12,500 for single people and $20,000 for married people; $25,000 if spouse is also over 62 years of age.
26-2-103 - $4,000 of any personal property.
26-2-104 - Clothing and storage containers; schools books, pictures, portraits, and bible.
26-2-105 - Health savings accounts.
26-2-111 - Health aids; lost earnings payments for yourself or a person you depended upon; personal injury recoveries up to $7,500; wrongful death recoveries up to $10,000 (total of personal injury claims, wrongful death claims, and crime victims' compensation cannot exceed $15,000).
26-2-305 & 46-2-102 - Burial plot up to 1 acre.
26-2-106 & 26-2-107 - The greater of the following: 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage or minimum of 75% of disposable weekly income, plus $2.50 per week per child. Judge may approve more for low income debtor.
26-2-109 - Wages of debtor deserting family, in hands of family.\
Note: In re Lawrence, 219 B.R. 786 (E.D. Tenn. 1998) ruled that wage garnishment is not an exemption in bankruptcy.
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.
8-36-111 - Public employees.
26-2-105 - State and local government employees.
26-2-111 - ERISA-qualified benefits.
45-9-909 - Teachers.
13-11-115 - Relocation assistance payments.
26-2-111 - Unemployment compensation; veterans' benefits; Social Security; local public assistance.
26-2-111 & 29-13-111 - Crime victims' compensation up to $5,000 (for limits, see "Personal Property," above).
50-6-223 - Workers' compensation.
71-2-216 - Old-age assistance.
71-4-117 - Aid to blind.
71-4-1112 - Aid to disabled.
Tools of Trade
26-2-111 - Tools, books, and implements of trade up to $1,900.
Alimony and Child Support
26-2-111 - Alimony and child support which is owed for at least 30 days prior to filing for bankruptcy.
26-2-110 - Disability, accident or health. benefits, for a resident and citizen of Tennessee.
26-2-111 - Disability or illness benefits.
56-7-203 - Life insurance or annuity.
56-25-1403 - Fraternal benefit society benefits.
49-4-108 - Educational scholarship trust funds and prepayment plans.
Add any applicable Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions.
This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in Tennessee. However, it may not include all exemptions, and states often create exceptions to specific exemptions. In addition, Tennessee 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.