Last updated Nov. 28, 2017.
If you are considering bankruptcy, you may be concerned about whether property you own can be taken to pay your creditors. In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, the trustee can theoretically sell property to pay your creditors. However, most people who file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Ohio don’t lose any property. That’s because bankruptcy exemptions protect many types of property.
When property is exempt, the trustee can’t take it. The Ohio bankruptcy exemptions are designed to ensure that you have what you need to live and work and start to rebuild financially.
How Exemptions Work in Bankruptcy
Each state has its own set of bankruptcy exemptions, and there can be significant differences from state to state. There are also federal exemptions. People who file bankruptcy in some states have a choice: they can choose to use the state exemptions or the federal exemptions. Ohio bankruptcy filers don’t have that choice. In Ohio, only the state exemptions are available.
When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you will be required to list your assets. You will also have the opportunity to claim exemptions for many of those assets. If you are one of the rare Chapter 7 filers who has non-exempt property, the trustee can take that property and use it to make partial payment to your creditors. Your bankruptcy attorney can help you determine which of your property is exempt, and whether it is in your best interest to file even if you have some non-exempt property. Many people in this situation choose to file Chapter 13 instead.
If you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, your lawyer will help you create a payment plan to present to the court for approval. The trustee doesn’t sell non-exempt property in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. But, your non-exempt property may affect the amount you are required to pay creditors through your Chapter 13 plan. Your total payments in a Chapter 13 plan have to be equal to or greater than the amount your creditors would have gotten under Chapter 7.
Ohio Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Exemptions
Listed below are some of the most commonly used Ohio bankruptcy exemptions. If you are married, then you should know that married couples are allowed to “double.” Doubling means that each of the amounts listed below can be applied up to its maximum for the property each spouse. For example, you and your spouse may each exempt your own car up to the full exemption amount.
It’s important to understand how the value of an asset is determined for bankruptcy purposes. It isn’t the value of the property itself, but the value of your interest in the property. So, for instance, if you own a car worth $20,000 but still owe the lender $14,000, the value of the asset is $6,000.
Bankruptcy exemptions are periodically updated. The figures below are accurate as of February of 2023. Unless the legislature makes a change, they will remain in effect through March of 2025. But, you’ll want to check with your bankruptcy attorney to make sure you have the most up-to-date numbers.
- Homestead exemption: Up to $161,375 of equity in your home.
- Motor vehicle: Up to $4,450 of value in a motor vehicle.
- Cash: Up to $550 of cash on hand or deposit.
- Household goods: Up to $700 of value in any household item is exempt, up to a maximum of $14,875 total. Single items worth more than $700 each are not exempt, even if the total including those items is less than $14,875.
- Jewelry: Up to $1,875 in jewelry (that’s total, not per item).
- Tools of the trade: Up to $2,825 of property that you use for your job or your business, including books and implements.
- Claims for personal injury: Up to $27,950 for bodily injury awards or settlements.
- Life insurance: The full amount of your life insurance policy.
- Burial plot: The full amount of your burial plot.
- Workers’ compensation: The full amount of any workers’ compensation benefits.
- Unemployment benefits: The full amount of any unemployment benefits.
- Retirement plan: Almost all forms of retirement plans are fully exempt.
- Wildcard: Up to $1,475 of value in any property you choose; you can add it on to other exemptions or use it to protect something not covered by the exemptions.
What else should I know about Ohio bankruptcy laws?
Again, these are only the most common exemptions that apply in a bankruptcy case and there are some complicated exceptions that may apply. Reach out to an experienced bankruptcy attorney before filing your case, selling any of your property, or attempting to negotiate with your creditors to ensure that your rights are protected and that you can manage your debts in the best way for your goals.