Many people worry about losing everything when filing for bankruptcy, but it's not the case. Washington's bankruptcy exemptions let filers protect property needed to maintain a home and job, such as equity in a house and car, furnishings, and a retirement account.
Get other tips about filing bankruptcy in Washington.
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?
Here are some of the more common exemptions in Washington. When reviewing them, keep these things in mind:
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.
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 proper protection of assets.
The statutes appear in the Revised Code of Washington or the federal law.
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, a filer will need to file a homestead declaration. (6.15.040)
6.15.010 – If unmarried, up to $3,250 in equity in one vehicle. If married, up to $6,500 in two vehicles.
6.15.010 - $3,000 of any personal property of your choosing, but not more than $1,500 in cash, $500 in bank deposits; however, filers with consumer debt can have $2,000 in bank accounts, and filers with educational loans protect $2,500 in bank accounts.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
6.15.010 - Child support payments.
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.
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 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.