When faced with the prospect of bankruptcy, you want reassurance, knowing what will happen with your property. In an overwhelming majority of Chapter 7 bankruptcies, the person filing retains all property, including tools of trade, jewelry, and household goods. In Nebraska, there are laws called exemptions that you can use to protect your property in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
As I discussed in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, changes are on the way for exemption laws. In early February, the Nebraska Unicameral passed Legislative Bill 105 by a vote of 47-0, which significantly changes Nebraska exemption laws. The governor has signed the bill and it will become law sometime late July 2018. In the last part of this series, I will discuss the exemptions as they are now and the presumed impact of the new law regarding tools of trade, jewelry, and household good.
Tools of Trade
Currently, you can exempt $2,400 worth of tools of the trade. As discussed in Part 1 of this series, vehicles are currently included.
Example 1: You own and operate a cabinet-making business as a sole proprietor and are unmarried. Your tools are worth $10,000. Under the current law, you’d only be able to protect $2,400 of that value with the tools of trade exemption. You could also use the wild card exemption to protect another $2,500. That would leave some of your tools exposed to being liquidated to pay your creditors.
Under the new law, the tools of trade exemption will be $5,000. It will no longer cover vehicles because the law explicitly excludes vehicles as a tool of the trade. The wild card exemption also doubles to $5,000.
Example 2: You have the same tools as stated above. Under the new law you’d be able to exempt all of your tools, meaning you could continue operating your cabinet-making business without having to replace equipment after your Ch.7 bankruptcy concludes.
In Nebraska, you can protect jewelry as an immediate personal possession for 100% of the value. This includes weddings rings, earrings, and inherited jewelry such as grandma’s broach. The new law does not change or impact this exemption.
Example: You own a wedding band worth $5,000. You are able to protect that ring 100%.
Household Goods and Furniture
In Nebraska, you can protect household goods and furnishings valued at $1,500 total. If you and your spouse are filing, you can double the exemption to $3,000. Using garage sale or Craigslist values, it is highly unlikely that you have household goods and furniture exceeding $3,000 in total value. If you do, you can always use any available wild card exemption to further protect your property.
Example 1: You and your spouse have furniture and household goods valued at $2,500. When you file your joint Ch. 7 bankruptcy, you will be able to protect that property because you can protect up to $3,000 of household goods.
Under the new law, the exemption doubles to $3,000 per person. If you and your spouse file, you can double the exemption to $6,000.
Example 2: The total value of all of your household goods and furniture is $9,000, which includes some higher-valued antiques that your mother gave you when she moves into the long-term care facility. You and your spouse file Ch. 7. Under the current law, you’d be at risk of losing some of those items in a Ch. 7 bankruptcy. Under the new law, you’d be able to exempt $6,000 of the property with the household goods and furniture exemption. If you have available wild card exemption, you’d be able to protect the other $3,000 worth of value.
Rest assured that you most likely will be able to protect and retain all of your property in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The trustee, the person assigned to liquidate assets in a bankruptcy, most often cannot claim any property because you are able to exempt or protect it. However, each situation is unique. At Koenig│Dunne, one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys can inform you how to protect your assets through a bankruptcy.