Major exemptions available when filing for bankruptcy in Vermont are listed below. Vermont is one of the few states which allow its residents to choose between the federal and state exemptions. Citizens who file for bankruptcy in Vermont may choose between the exemption system listed below or the federal exemption system.

However, the debtor may not pick and choose between the systems. If the debtor chooses to use the Vermont homestead exemption, the debtor must use all the other exemptions. Likewise, if the debtor uses the federal homestead exemption, the debtor must also use the federal exemptions for personal property.

A lawyer should be consulted to determine the particulars of each exemption and to determine all available exemptions that may be filed.

Homestead

  • Up to $125,000 in the principal residence, including condo or mobile home.
  • Married couples may not double.

Equity in automobile

  • Up to $2,500 in one motor vehicle.
  • Up to $5,000 for married couples.

Personal property

  • Up to $2,500 in appliances, furnishings, clothing, books, crops, animals, and musical instruments.
  • Up to $5,000 in crops.
  • Up to $700 in bank deposits.
  • Up to $500 in jewelry.
  • Stove, heating unit, refrigerator, freezer, water heater, and sewing machine.
  • Various livestock.
  • Coal, heating oil, and firewood.
  • Health aids.
  • Wedding ring.

Tools of the trade

  • Up to $5,000 in tools or books used in trade or profession.

Insurance

  • Up to $350 per month in annuity contract benefits.
  • Up to $200 per month in health benefits.
  • Life insurance proceeds from a person debtor was dependent on.
  • Life insurance proceeds that cannot be used to pay debtor’s creditors.
  • Life insurance proceeds if the beneficiary is not the insured.
  • Unmatured life insurance contract, other than credit life insurance.
  • Disability or illness benefits if debtor needs them for support.

Pensions

  • ERISA qualified benefits needed for support.
  • Tax exempt accounts, such as 401(k) or 403(b).
  • Up to $1,245,475 in IRAs and Roth IRAs.
  • Self-directed accounts such as IRAs, but only for contributions made at least one year before filing.
  • State and municipal employees.
  • Teachers.
  • Public retirement benefits.

Public benefits

Wages

  • Some wages are protected from garnishment. However, the debtor cannot use the protected wages while in bankruptcy.

Alimony and child support

  • Amount reasonably necessary for support of debtor and dependents.

Wildcard

  • Any unused amount from motor vehicles, tools of trade, jewelry, furniture, household appliances, or crops. Unused amount in wildcard cannot exceed $7,000.
  • $400 in any property.

How Does the Wildcard Exemption Work?

The wildcard exemption can be used by the debtor to save any property, including property not covered by the other exemptions. The catch is that the debtor can only save up to $400 plus unused value from the motor vehicle, tools, and jewelry, furniture, appliances, and crops exemptions. The unused value of these exemptions cannot exceed $7,000 though, so the largest wildcard that a debtor could claim would be $7,400.

Suppose a debtor (single/bachelor) wants to save his second car from bankruptcy. The car is worth $6,000. If the debtor doesn’t use the crop exemption, jewelry exemption, and only $4,900 from the tools exemption, he would have $5,600 extra credit to use. Combined with the $400 already exempt, the debtor would have $6,000 – enough to save his car.

Suppose that same car is worth $8,000 instead. If the debtor has $6,000 in the wildcard exemption, but not enough to save the second car, the debtor could still cash in the wildcard for $6,000 after the second car is sold on behalf of creditors.

Do I Need a Bankruptcy Lawyer?

Bankruptcy is a very complicated process and filing an exemption incorrectly can lead to that property being seized, even if the property would have been exempt had the exemption been filed correctly. Either the Vermont bankruptcy exemption statute or the federal bankruptcy exemption system can be used when filing for exemptions in Vermont.

A bankruptcy lawyer knows the particulars of filing for bankruptcy and can recommend what chapter of bankruptcy is right for you, and also ensure that your exemptions are filed correctly. A qualified bankruptcy lawyer in Vermont can provide you more information if there is a legal basis for your bankruptcy case.