California Bankruptcy Exemptions Increase as of January 2013

By Ryan C. Wood

As we are now beginning the new year you should be aware of the new laws that may affect you. If you are thinking of meeting with bankruptcy lawyers in California and filing for bankruptcy in 2013 one thing you should know is that some bankruptcy exemptions are higher in California as a result of California Assembly Bill AB-929.  Inevitably the exemptions will increase again after the writing of this article.  This bill was approved by the governor and filed with the Secretary of State on September 27, 2012. This means that more of your property can be protected when you file for bankruptcy. California has two exemption statutes. The first exemption statute has a generous wild card exemption, Section 703.140 of the Code of Civil Procedure, and the second exemption statute has a generous homestead exemption, Section 704.730 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Your bankruptcy attorney cannot use both in a bankruptcy petition. California has opted out of using the federal exemption statutes so those are unavailable for people filing for bankruptcy in California.

Here are some of the changes in the exemption statutes as of January 1, 2013:

Section 703.140 of the Code of Civil Procedure:

• $24,060 in homestead or burial plot ($22,075 previously)
• $25,340 wildcard exemption. This consists of $1,280 plus any unused portion of the $24,060 homestead or burial plot exemption. ($23,250 previously)
• $4,800 in one or more motor vehicles ($3,525 for ONE motor vehicle previously)
• $600 in any single household item ($550 previously)
• $7,175 professional books or tools of trade ($2,200 previously)
• $12,860 dividend or interest under unmatured life insurance contract ($11,800 previously)
• $24,060 personal injury payments ($22,075 previously but this did not include pain and suffering compensation)

Section 704.730 of the Code of Civil Procedure:

Homestead exemptions provided to a homeowner would be one of the following:
1) $75,000 unless you are a person described in (2) or (3) below.
2) $100,000 if you are a member of a family unit where one or more members of the family do not have an interest in the homestead or whose only interest is a community property interest
3) $175,000 ($150,000 previously) if you are:
a. 65 years of age or older
b. physically or mentally disabled and as a result cannot work
c. 55 years or older with gross annual income of not more than $25,000 (single) or $35,000 (married) and there is an attempted involuntary sale ($15,000 if single and $20,000 if married previously)

Additionally, on April 1, 2013, (and every three years thereafter) the Judicial Council is required to submit adjusted homestead exemptions based on the change in the annual California Consumer Price Index to the Legislature. The increases will not be in effect until they are approved by the Legislature. This will tie the homestead exemptions to inflation and the rising cost of home ownership.