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California Bankruptcy Exemptions

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Whether you're filing a chapter 7 or a chapter 13, you are allowed to keep some of your possessions. The part of Calilfornia state law that allows this is called "exemptions." These vary from state to state, so you want to make sure you're using California bankruptcy exemptions.

Note: the following table may be out of date. You are advised to check the local statutes and be certain of current changes in the law.

There are two "schemes" (and we mean this in a good way) that a debtor can use when filing in California. (note: these are current up to 2004; contact an attorney to see if you're protected)

Scheme 1
Scheme 2

Homestead: real prop to...

  • $50,000 if you're single
  • $75,000 for families (if no other homestead)
  • $100,000 if over 65 years old
  • $100,000 if over 55 years old and a) single and earn less than $15,000/year or b) married and earn less than $20,000/year


  • appliances, clothing and food
  • burial plot
  • health aids
  • Soc Sec bank deposits
  • building materials up to $2,000 to build/improve
  • jewelry and heirlooms up to $5,000
  • motor vehicles up to $1,900 - more if commercial
  • wrongful death causes of action or recoveries
  • personal injury causes of action or recoveries


  • Disability or health benefits
  • homeowner's insurance money for 6 months
  • life insurance money if it says it can't be used to pay your creditors
  • life insurance - a) matured: needed for support or b) unmatured: loan value to $4,000


  • County employees, police or firefighters
  • Private retirements, including IRAs and Keoghs
  • Public employees and retirement benefits

Public Benefits

  • Financial aid to students
  • Relocation benefits
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Union benefits if labor dispute
  • Workers compensation

Tools of Trade

  • up to $5,000 total
  • double if used by both spouses used it


  • Business or professional licenses (not liquor)
  • Property of business partnership


  • 75% of wages paid within 30 days of filing
  • public employees: vacation credits (if getting them at least 75%)

Wildcard - No


  • Real or personal property used as residence to $17,425
  • Unused portion of this can be used for any property
  • not as fancy as other system
  • more bullets over there



  • Household items up to $450 each item
  • furnishings
  • books
  • clothing
  • burial plot up to $7,500 (in place of homestead)
  • health aids
  • jewelry up to $1,150
  • motor vehicle up to $2,775
  • personal injury recoveries up to $7,500 (not including pain and suffering)
  • wrongful death recoveries used for support


  • Disability benefits
  • Health aids for debtor or dependent
  • life insurance proceeds
  • unmatured life insurance (details apply)


  • ERISA-qualified benefits needed for support


Public Benefits

  • Crime victim compensation
  • public assistance
  • social security
  • unemployment
  • veterans' benefits

Tools of Trade

  • up to $1,750



  • alimony needed for support
  • stock bonus, pension or other fund for support
  • custody needed for support

Wages - NO


  • $450 of any property
  • unused portion of homestead or burial
704 California Code of Civil Proc CCP

As you can see, the two systems are different. You want to be really careful when choosing them. Which is why you'll want a skilled Los Angeles bankruptcy attorney to help you with California bankruptcy exemptions.


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