My friends tell me you get to keep one vehicle when you file bankruptcy. True or False?
Its not that simple, but most people do get to keep their vehicles. And it’s not a question of whether you need it for work.
The law provides for a $1,000.00 motor vehicle exemption. Husband and wife each get $1,000.00. So if the vehicle is only worth a thousand you’re okay. If you have a loan against the vehicle, we are only concerned about the vehicle value in excess of what’s owed. So if your vehicle is worth less than the amount owed, you keep the vehicle as long as you keep making the loan payment. If your car is worth more than $1,000.00 over the loan amount ($2,000.00 if titled to husband and wife) we may have to set up a payment to the bankruptcy trustee to account for the excess. If the amount owed to the trustee is within reason, we can often set up a payment to the trustee over a number of months.
Your motor vehicle exemption is not your only protection for your vehicle. If you aren’t claiming the homestead exemption or you’re walking away from your homestead property you each get a $5,000.00 personal property exemption, and that can also be applied to a vehicle (after exempting furniture, jewelry, tools, etc.). So its not a simple answer. Free and clear vehicles worth a lot of money can cause a problem, but we can often make that work in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. More on that later.
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— J. Herbert Williams, P.A.