Most Chapter 7 bankruptcy filers can keep all household goods and furniture in bankruptcy, but not always. Whether you will be able to will depend on the property your state allows you to exempt or the federal exemption amount if your state allows you to choose between the state and federal exemption systems.
If you fail to pay your bills, creditors have the right to take steps to recover what you owe them from your assets using collection techniques. However, it isn't in society's best interest to allow creditors to impoverish debtors, so you're allowed to keep property needed to work and live.
All states have enacted exemption laws that carve out the property that creditors aren't entitled to, and in most states, the exemptions can be used in bankruptcy proceedings. If a particular item of property is exempt, you get to keep it in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Each state has some form of bankruptcy exemption that can be applied to household goods and furniture. Some are specifically for household goods and furniture. Others set monetary limits and allow you to choose the item you wish to exempt.
Wildcard exemption. Many states also have a wildcard exemption that you can apply to your choice of property, including to household goods and furniture.
To find the exemption amounts in your state, visit your state's bankruptcy page on the Bankruptcy Exemptions by State on the Nolo bankruptcy site.
Federal law also has a list of bankruptcy exemptions. In some states, you can use the federal exemptions instead of your state exemptions. To learn which states can use the federal exemptions, see The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions.
The federal exemptions allow you to exempt household goods and furniture and clothing, appliances, books, animals, crops, and musical instruments, up to a total of $14,875. There is a $700 value limit per item. These amounts apply to cases filed between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2025. (11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(3).)
If you have household goods and furniture that aren't fully protected by the exemption, the federal wildcard exemption might help. For instance, suppose that you own an antique table worth $1,700—$1,000 over the household individual item limit. You could use $1,000 of the federal wildcard exemption to protect the table fully.
The federal wildcard exemption allows you to claim an additional $1,475. You can also use any unused portion of the homestead exemption up to $13,950. (11 U.S.C. § 522(d)(5).) These amounts apply to cases filed between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2025.
Bankruptcy is an unusual area of law because it's essentially a qualification process. The laws provide instructions for completing a 50- to 60-page bankruptcy petition, and because all rules apply in every case, you can't skip a step.
The forms and resources below will help you find more information. Also, you can use this list of Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcy forms to see where this topic falls. And this handy bankruptcy document checklist will help you gather the things you'll need to complete the petition.
More Bankruptcy Information
We want to help you find the answers you need. Go to TheBankruptcySite for more easy-to-understand bankruptcy articles, or consider buying a self-help book like The New Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O'Neill.
We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets in bankruptcy is by consulting with a local bankruptcy lawyer.
Updated April 25, 2022