May 20, 2016
Like all states, Delaware 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 Delaware is not one of them. In Delaware, 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 Delaware, 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?
Unless otherwise noted, all law references are to the Delaware Code Annotated.
Total exemptions (not including retirement plans and principal residence) may not exceed $25,000 for a single person; $50,000 for husband & wife.
10-4914 - Real property or a manufactured home that is the primary residence up to $125,000 in 2012; $125,000 for working or married persions where one spouse is 65 or older (spouses may not double). Property held as tenancy by the entirety may be exempt against debts owed by only one spouse.
10-4902 - Clothing, including jewelry; books; family pictures; piano; leased organs; sewing machines; burial plot; church pew or any seat in public place of worship.
10-4916 - College investment plan account (whichever is more; limit of $5,000 for one year prior to filing or the average of the past two years' contributions) or Delaware ABLE account.
12-3536 - Principal and income from spendthrift trusts.
10-4913 - 85% of earned but unpaid wages.
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 $1,283,025, including inherited IRAs (in most states, inherited IRAs are not exempt).
11-8803 - Police officers.
16-6653 - Volunteer firefighters.
29-5503 - State employees.
19-2355 - Workers' compensation.
19-3374 - Unemployment compensation.
31-2309 & 31-513 - General assistance; aid to aged, blind and disabled.
11-9011 - Crime victims' compensation.
18-6708 - Fireman's Disability Benefit
Tools of Trade
10-4902 - Tools, implements and fixtures, up to $75 in New Castle and Sussex counties, and up to $50 in Kent County.
10-4914 - Vehicles and/or tools of trade that are necessary for employment up to $15,000 each.
18-2725 - Life insurance proceeds.
18-2726 - Health or disability benefits.
18-2727 - Group life insurance policy or proceeds.
18-2728 - Annuity contract proceeds up to $350 per month.
18-2729 - Life insurance proceeds if policy prohibits use to pay creditors.
18-6218 - Fraternal benefit society benefits.
10-4903 - $500 of any personal property if head of family (except tools of trade).
Add any applicable Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions.
This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in Delaware. However, it may not include all exemptions, and states often create exceptions to specific exemptions. Consider cross-checking this list with www.legalconsumer.com, which updates the state exemption amounts regularly, or check with your local bankruptcy court.