Washington Bankruptcy Exemptions

You can protect many assets in bankruptcy using Washington bankruptcy exemptions.

Updated January 29, 2019

Many people unnecessarily worry that they’ll lose everything when filing for bankruptcy. Washington’s bankruptcy exemptions will allow you to protect property needed to maintain a home and job, such as equity in a house and car, and a retirement account.

Get other tips about filing bankruptcy in Washington.

Washington Exemptions v. Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions

Some states, including Washington, allow residents to choose between the state and federal bankruptcy exemptions. You can’t protect property using both lists, but if you elect Washington’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 Washington Bankruptcy Exemptions

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

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

Washington Homestead Exemption

6.13.010 – You can protect equity in real property or mobile home up to $125,000. If the property is unimproved but you intend to occupy it, you can protect up to $15,000. Spouses can’t double these amounts. In some instances, you’ll need to file a homestead declaration. (6.15.040)

Washington Motor Vehicle Exemption

6.15.010 – If unmarried, up to $3,250 in equity in one vehicle. If married, up to $6,500 in two vehicles.

Washington Wildcard Exemption

6.15.010 - $3,000 of any personal property of your choosing, but not more than $1,500 in cash, $500 in bank deposits, and $2,500 toward an educational loan.

Other Washington Exemptions

Personal Property

6.15.010 – Clothing (furs, jewelry & ornaments are limited to $3,500); cell phone, personal computer, and printer; household goods, furniture, appliances, home and yard equipment up to $6,500 ($13,000 for a married couple); pictures and keepsakes; books and electronic media to $3,500; food and fuel for comfortable maintenance; prepaid tuition; prescribed health aids; and personal injury awards up to $20,000.

6.15.020 - Health savings account and medical savings account deposits.

6.15.030 - Insurance proceeds for lost, stolen, or destroyed exempt property.

68.24.220 - Burial ground.

6.32.250 - Spendthrift trusts. See In re Findley, 286 B.R. 163 (2002)

Wages

6.27.150 - The greater of the following: 30 times the federal hourly minimum wage or minimum of 75% of disposable earnings. A judge can approve more for a low-income debtor.

72.65.060 - Earnings of work release prisoners.

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).

6.15.020 - ERISA-qualified benefits, including IRAs and Keoghs.

41.24.240 - Volunteer firefighters.

41.26.053 - Law enforcement officials and firefighters.

41.44.240 - City employees.

41.32.052 - Teachers.

43.43.310 - State patrol officers.

Public and Charitable Benefits

48.36A.180 - Charitable society benefits.

50.40.020 - Unemployment compensation.

51.32.040 - Industrial insurance (workers' compensation).

74.04.280 - General assistance and public benefits.

Tools of Trade

6.15.010 - Tools and materials used in any trade up to $10,000; library, office furniture, equipment and supplies of a physician, surgeon, attorney, clergyman or other professional up to $10,000; farm trucks, tools, equipment, supplies, stock and seed of a farmer up to $10,000.

Alimony and Child Support

6.15.010 - Child support payments.

Insurance

48.36A.180 - Disability benefits, proceeds, dividends, interest, loan, cash, or surrender value.

48.18.410 - Life insurance proceeds, dividends, interest, loan, cash, or surrender value if the insured is not the beneficiary.

46.18.420 - Group life insurance policy or proceeds.

46.18.430 - Annuity contract proceeds up to $3,000 per month.

Other

Add any applicable federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.

Nonexempt Property—Property You Can’t Protect With a Washington Exemption

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

  • In 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 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 Washington Exemptions

This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in Washington. However, it doesn’t include all exemptions. Also, specific exemptions could have qualification requirements you must meet, and Washington might have changed the amounts since this list was last updated. Check the Revised Code of Washington or with a local bankruptcy lawyer.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP ?

Talk to an attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you