Hawaii Bankruptcy Exemptions

Find out what property you'll be able to keep if you file for bankruptcy.

Updated January 18, 2019

You don’t have to worry about losing everything when filing for bankruptcy in Hawaii. You can protect necessary property, such as a home, car, and retirement account, using Hawaii’s bankruptcy exemptions.

Sometimes exemptions don’t cover all of your assets, however. In that case, the bankruptcy chapter will determine what will happen to the unprotected property.

  • In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee appointed to administer your case sells nonexempt property and distributes the proceeds to creditors.
  • In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it works differently. You can keep everything you own, but you’ll pay creditors the value of the nonexempt property, your disposable income, or your nondischargeable debt (support obligations, most taxes, and the like), whichever is more, through your Chapter 13 repayment plan.

Find out more about filing for bankruptcy by reading Which Type of Bankruptcy is Right for Me?

Hawaii Exemptions v. Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions

Each state has a set of bankruptcy exemptions. A set of federal bankruptcy exemptions exists too. Federal exemptions usually come into play when a filer can’t claim a state of residence as a result of being in the military or out of the country for an extended period, for example.

Hawaii is one of the states that allows its residents to use either the Hawaii state exemptions or the federal bankruptcy exemptions. You can’t mix exemptions from each list, however. If you choose to use the Hawaii state exemptions, you can use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions, too.

Find out more about how bankruptcy exemptions work, which state exemption system you should use, and the homestead exemption rules in Bankruptcy Exemptions – What Can I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy?

Common Hawaii Bankruptcy Exemptions

Here are a few things to keep in mind when reviewing Hawaii exemptions:

  • Joint filing. Unless otherwise noted, when spouses file together in Hawaii, each spouse can claim the full amount of the exemption (informally called “doubling”) as long as each spouse has an ownership interest in the property.
  • List and verify your exemptions. You must claim an exemption by listing it in the official bankruptcy forms. You might qualify for exemptions not included in this article, or be required to meet qualification requirements. Consulting with a local bankruptcy attorney is the best way to ensure you’re protecting your assets.
  • Legal citations. Legal references are to the Hawaii Revised Statutes Annotated or federal law.

Hawaii Homestead Exemption

651-91 - Up to $20,000 or $30,000 if the debtor is the head of the family or is over 65. Property cannot exceed one acre. Sale proceeds are exempt for six months after the sale. Spouses can’t double the exemption amount. Tenancies by the entirety are exempt without limit as to debts of one spouse or reciprocal beneficiary.

Hawaii Motor Vehicle Exemption

651-121 - Motor vehicle up to a value of $2,575.

Other Hawaii Exemptions

Personal Property

651-121 - Clothing; appliances and furnishings needed; books; jewelry, watches, and articles of adornment up to $1,000; proceeds for sold or damaged exempt property (sale proceeds exempt for six months after sale); burial plot up to 250 square feet, plus on-site tombstones, monuments, and fencing.


353-22.5 - Prisoner's wages held by Dept. of Public Safety excluding child support, restitution, and other claims.

651-121 - Unpaid wages due for services of the past 31 days.


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 maximum (amount is subject to change).

88-169 Police officers and firefighters.

88-91 & 653-3 - Public officers and employees.

651-124 - Roth IRAs, IRAs, and ERISA-qualified benefits, if deposited more than three years before filing.

Public Benefits

346-33 - Public assistance paid by Dept. of Health Services for work done in home or a workshop.

351-66 - Crime victims' compensation; special accounts that were created to limit the commercial exploitation of crimes.

383-163 - Unemployment compensation.

386-57 - Workers' compensation.

392-29 - Temporary disability benefits.

653-4 - Unemployment work relief up to $60 per month.

Tools of Trade

651-121 - Tools, books, uniforms, implements, instruments, furnishings, fishing boat, nets, motor vehicle, and other personal property needed for livelihood.


431:10-231 - Accident, sickness or health benefits.

431:10-232 - Annuity contract or endowment policy proceeds if beneficiary is insured spouse, child or parent.

431:10-233 - Group life insurance policy or proceeds.

431:10-234 - Life or health insurance policy for a child or spouse.

431:10-D:112 - Life insurance proceeds if policy prohibits use to pay creditors.

432:2-403 - Fraternal benefit society benefits.


425-125 - Business partnership property.

Add any applicable Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions.

Confirming Exemptions

This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in Hawaii; however, it doesn’t include all of them. Also, states often create exceptions to specific exemptions, and Hawaii could have changed the amounts since this list was last updated. Consider checking with a local bankruptcy attorney or self-help legal center.

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  3. Choose attorneys to contact you