Virginia Bankruptcy Exemptions

Find out how to protect property in a Virginia bankruptcy using Virginia's bankruptcy exemptions.

Updated January 29, 2019

You won’t lose everything when filing for bankruptcy in Virginia. Virginia’s bankruptcy exemptions allow you to protect property you’ll need to work and live, such as a home, car, and retirement account.

Find out more about Virginia bankruptcy filings.

Virginia Exemptions v. Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions

Some states allow residents to choose between the state and the federal bankruptcy exemptions, but not Virginia. You’ll use Virginia’s state exemptions and, if helpful, the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.

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 Virginia Bankruptcy Exemptions

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

  • Joint filing. Unless otherwise noted, when spouses file together in Virginia, 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 Code of Virginia or the federal law.

Virginia Homestead and Personal Property Exemption

34-4 – You can exempt $5,000 plus $500 per dependent for residential property, personal property (in addition to other exemptions), or both. The amount increases to $10,000 if you’re over 65 or a disabled veteran exemption. You must file homestead declaration before filing for bankruptcy (34-6).

Virginia Motor Vehicle Exemption

34-26 – Equity in a motor vehicle can be exempted up to $6,000.

Virginia Wildcard Exemption

34-13 – Any unused amount of the homestead exemption can be applied to protect other property.

Other Virginia Exemptions

Personal Property

34-26 - Clothing up to $1,000; household furnishings up to $5,000; firearms up to $3,000; family portraits and heirlooms up to $5,000; burial plot; wedding and engagement rings, family Bible; animals owned as pets, provided they aren’t raised for sale or profit, and medically prescribed health aids.

34-28.1 - Personal injury recoveries and causes of action.

38.2-5604 - Health savings accounts and medical savings accounts.

64.2-310 - Surviving spouse (or minor children if there is no surviving spouse) may exempt up to $20,000 of deceased spouse's personal property.

Wages

34-29 - Greater of the following: 40 times the federal minimum hourly wage or minimum of 75% of disposable weekly earnings. A judge can approve more for a low-income debtor.

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).

34-34 - ERISA-qualified benefits to the same amount as allowed by federal bankruptcy law.

51.1-124.4 - State employees.

51.1-802 - County, city and town employees.

51.1-200 - State police officers.

51.1-300 - Judges.

Public Benefits

19.2-368.12 - Crime victims' compensation, unless seeking to discharge debt for treatment of crime-related injury.

60.2-600 - Unemployment compensation.

63.2-506 - General assistance and aid to blind, aged, and disabled.

65.1-82 - Workers' compensation.

34-26(9) - Earned income tax credit.

Tools of Trade

44-96 - Arms, uniforms, and equipment of a military member.

34-26 - Tools, books, instruments, implements, equipment, and machines, including motor vehicles, vessels, and aircraft, necessary for use in occupation or trade up to $10,000.

34-27 - For farmer: tractor to $3,000, one wagon or cart, a pair of horses, a pair of mules with gear; fertilizer to $1,000; two plows, harvest cradle, two iron wedges, pitchfork, and rake.

Insurance

38.2-3122 - Life insurance proceeds, dividends, interest, loan, cash, or surrender value.

38.2-3339 - Group life insurance policy or proceeds.

38.2-3406 - Accident, sickness or industrial illness benefits.

38.2-3811 - Cooperative life insurance benefits.

38.2-4021 - Burial society benefits.

38:2-4118 - Fraternal benefit society benefits.

51.1-510 - Group life or accident insurance for government officials.

Other

64.2-310 and 311 - Decedent's exempt property or homestead allowance for surviving spouse, up to $20,000.

34-26(1); 34-28.2 - Unpaid spousal or child support necessary for support.

Add any applicable federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.

Nonexempt Property—Property You Can’t Protect With a Virginia 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 Virginia Exemptions

This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in Virginia. However, doesn’t include all exemptions. Also, states often create qualification requirements for specific exemptions, and Virginia might have changed the amounts since this list was last updated. Check the Code of Virginia or with a local bankruptcy lawyer.

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