Updated January 31, 2019
You don't need to worry that you'll lose all of your assets when filing for bankruptcy. New York's bankruptcy exemptions will allow you to protect the things you'll need to maintain a household and job, such as equity in a home and car, and a retirement account.
Some states, including New York, allow residents to choose between the state and federal bankruptcy exemptions. You can't protect property using both lists, but if you elect New York's state exemptions, you can use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions, too.
Here are some of the more common exemptions in New York. When reviewing them, you'll want to keep these things in mind:
NYCPLR 5206(a) – Equity in residential property, including a mobile home, condominium, or co-op, up to $82,775. The amount increases if you live in another county:
Debtor & Creditor 282 – Up to $4,550 in equity in a motor vehicle. The amount increases to $11,375 for a debtor with a disability.
NYCPLR 5205 – Up to $1,150 for personal property (not real estate), a bank account, or cash, if the filer doesn't use the homestead exemption.
Debtor & Creditor 283 – A debtor who doesn't use the homestead exemption can exempt cash up to $5,700 or $11,375 minus exemptions taken under 5205, whichever is less.
NYCPLR 5205 - Clothing, furniture, refrigerator, TV, radio, sewing machine, security deposits with landlord or utility company, tableware, cooking utensils and crockery; stoves with fuel to last 120 days, health aids (including service animals with food), church pew or seat, wedding ring, bible, school books, pictures; books up to $575; domestic animals with food to last 120 days and up to $1,100; wedding ring, jewelry, art, watch to $1,150; spendthrift trust fund principal; 90% of trust fund income if not created by debtor; college tuition savings program trust fund; recovery for injury to exempt property up to 1 year after receiving. Exemptions cannot exceed a total of $11,375 including tools of the trade and limited annuity.
NYCPLR 5206 - Burial plot up to 1/4 acre without a structure on it.
Banking 407 - Savings and loan savings up to $600.
Debtor & Creditor 282 - Lost future earnings recoveries needed for support; personal injury recoveries up to 1 year after receipt; wrongful death recoveries for a person you depended upon for support.
Debtor & Creditor 282(3)(iii) – Bodily injury payments to $8,550.
5205 - 90% of earned but unpaid wages received within 60 days of filing for bankruptcy; 90% of earnings from milk sales to milk dealers; 100% for a noncommissioned private, officer or musician in the U.S. or N.Y. state armed forces. In re Wiltsie, 463 B.R. 223 (Bankr .N.D. N.Y. 2011)
Soc. Serv. Law 137-2 - Wages exempt from installment payments while on public assistance.
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 changes).
5205 & Debtor & Creditor 282 - ERISA-qualified plans, Keoghs, and IRAs needed for support.
Educ.524 - Teachers.
Ins. 4607 - Public retirement benefits.
Ret. and Soc. Sec. 10 - State employees.
Unconsolidated 5711-o - Village police officers.
Vol. Amb. Wkr. Ben. 23 - Benefits of volunteer ambulance workers.
Vol. Fire. Ben. 23 - Benefits of volunteer firefighters.
Debtor & Creditor 282 - Unemployment benefits; veterans' benefits; Social Security; aid to blind, aged, and disabled; crime victims' compensation; home relief, local public assistance; public assistance; worker's compensation. Public benefits do not include earned income tax credit (In re Fasarakis, 423 B.R. 34 (E.D.N.Y 2010)) but might include rent-controlled lease (In re Santiago-Monteverde, 2014 N.Y. Slip Op. 08051 (Ct. App. N.Y. 2014).
Tools of the Trade
5205 - Professional furniture, books, instruments, farm machinery, team and food for 60 days, up to $3,400 total; arms, swords, uniforms, equipment, horse, emblem and medal of a military member.
Alimony and Child Support
C.P.L.R. 5205 - Alimony and child support.
Partnership 51 - Business partnership property.
Add any applicable federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.
Some people can keep all assets, but that isn't always true. Here's what will happen to nonexempt property:
You'll learn more about Chapter 7 and 13 in Which Type of Bankruptcy is Right for Me?
This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in New York, but not all. Specific exemptions could have qualification requirements, and amounts might have changed since this list was last updated. Check the Consolidated Laws of New York or with a local bankruptcy lawyer.
To learn more about bankruptcy exemptions, the state exemption system, and the homestead exemption rules, read Bankruptcy Exemptions – What Can I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy?