Rhode Island Bankruptcy Exemptions

You can protect property in a Rhode Island bankruptcy using the Rhode Island bankruptcy exemption laws.

Updated January 30, 2019

You don’t need to worry that you’ll lose all of your assets when filing for bankruptcy. Rhode Island’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.

Rhode Island Exemptions v. Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions

Some states, including Rhode Island, allow residents to choose between the state and federal bankruptcy exemptions. You can’t protect property using both lists, but if you elect Rhode Island’s state exemptions, you can use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions, too.

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?

Common Rhode Island Bankruptcy Exemptions

Here are some of the more common exemptions in Rhode Island. When reviewing them, you’ll want to keep these things in mind:

  • Joint filing. Unless otherwise noted, when spouses file together in Rhode Island, 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 that you’re protecting your assets.
  • Legal citations. You’ll find each of the statutes in the General Laws of Rhode Island or the federal law.

Rhode Island Homestead Exemption

9-26-4.1 – Equity up to $500,000 in a primary residence. Married couples filing jointly can’t double the homestead exemption.

Rhode Island Motor Vehicle Exemption

9-26-4 – Equity up to $12,000 in motor vehicles.

Rhode Island Wildcard Exemption

9-26-4 – A value of up to $6,500 in any property of the filer’s choosing.

Other Rhode Island Exemptions

Personal Property

7-8-25 - Consumer cooperative association holdings up to $50.

9-26-4 – Necessary clothing; furniture, beds and bedding, household goods and supplies up to $9,600 total (spouses may not double); jewelry up to $2,000; books up to $300 total; burial plot; debt owed to you which is secured by a promissory note or bill of exchange; and prepaid tuition accounts.

Wages

9-26-4 - Earned but unpaid wages up to $50; wages of spouse; earned but unpaid wages of a seaman; wages exempt for 1 year after getting off relief if you have received welfare prior to filing for bankruptcy; wages paid by a charitable organization; earnings of a minor child.

30-7-9 - Earned but unpaid wages of a military member on active duty.

Pensions

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).

9-26-4 - ERISA-qualified benefits; IRAs and Roth IRAs.

9-26-5 - Police officers and firefighters.

28-17-4 - Private employees.

36-10-34 - State and municipal employees.

Public Benefits

12-25.1-3 - Crime victim's compensation.

28-33-27 - Workers' compensation.

28-41-32 - State disability benefits.

28-44-58 - Unemployment compensation.

30-7-9 - Veterans' disability or survivor benefits.

40-6-14 - General assistance; aid to blind, aged, and disabled.

Tools of Trade

9-26-4 - Working tools up to $2,000; professional library.

Insurance

27-4-12 - Life insurance proceeds if policy prohibits use to pay creditors.

27-18-24 - Accident or illness proceeds, benefits, dividends, interest, loan, cash, or surrender value.

27-25-18 - Fraternal benefit society benefits.

28-41-32 - Temporary disability insurance.

Other

7-12-36 - Business partnership property.

Add any applicable federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.

Nonexempt Property—Property You Can’t Protect With a Rhode Island Exemption

Some people can keep all assets, but that isn’t always true. Here’s what will happen to nonexempt property:

  • In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee appointed to administer your case will sell nonexempt property and distribute the proceeds to creditors. Find out more about the bankruptcy process and the Chapter 7 documents you'll need at each stage.
  • 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.

You’ll learn more about Chapter 7 and 13 in Which Type of Bankruptcy is Right for Me?

Confirming Rhode Island Exemptions

This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in Rhode Island, but not all. Specific exemptions could have qualification requirements, and amounts might have changed since this list was last updated. Check the General Laws of Rhode Island or with a local bankruptcy lawyer.

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