Update January 31, 2019
You won't lose all of your assets when filing for bankruptcy in Pennsylvania. However, Pennsylvania's bankruptcy exemptions are some of the most limited in the country.
You'll be able to protect some of the things you'll need, such as clothing and a retirement account, but not much more. Your other choice—using the federal bankruptcy exemptions—could provide more protection.
Learn more about filing a Pennsylvania bankruptcy case.
Some states, including Pennsylvania, allow residents to choose between the state and federal bankruptcy exemptions. You can't protect property by using exemptions from both lists—you must pick the system that will work best for you. If you elect to use Pennsylvania's state exemptions, the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions will be available to you, too.
Here are some of the more common exemptions in Pennsylvania. When reviewing them, you'll want to keep these things in mind:
None, but the equity in a residence held in tenancy by the entirety can't be used to repay the debts of one spouse. Contact a local bankruptcy lawyer for information about your situation.
42-8123 – Up to $300 of any personal property (not real estate) or cash of the filer's choosing.
42-8124 - Clothing, bibles, school books, sewing machine, uniforms.
42-8127 - Earned but unpaid wages; abuse victims' 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 maximum (amount changes).
16-4716 -County employees.
24-8533 & 42-8124 - Public school employees.
42-8124 - Private retirement benefits if plan states that proceeds cannot be used to pay creditors. Exemption limits apply.
53-764 & 53-776 & 53-23666 - Police officers.
42-8124 & 53-881.115 - Municipal employees.
53-13445 & 53-23572 & 53-39383 - City employees.
42-8124 & 71-5953 - State employees.
18-11.708 - Crime victims' compensation.
42-8124 - Workers' compensation and unemployment compensation.
51-20012 - Veterans' benefits.
51-20098 - Korean conflict veterans' benefits.
42-8124 - Fraternal benefit society benefits; insurance or annuity payments up to $100 per month if insured is the beneficiary; annuity or life insurance proceeds if policy prohibits proceeds from being used to pay creditors; group insurance policy or proceeds; annuity or life insurance proceeds if beneficiary is decedent's spouse, child, or another dependent relative; accident or disability insurance proceeds; no-fault automobile insurance proceeds.
15-8342 - 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 Pennsylvania, but not all. Specific exemptions could have qualification requirements, and amounts might have changed since this list was last updated. Check the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes 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?