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California Bankruptcy Exemptions


Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions NOT Available in California

California has opted out of the Federal Exemptions (see below)

California Bankrupcty Exemptions Summary

(details below...)

Homestead

$300,000 to $600,000 depending on county, and median sale price for a home in prior calendar year.

2021 California Homestead Caclulator (by County)

  (more...)

Personal Property

Jewelry, heirlooms & art to $8,725 total (husband and wife may not double)Health aids
Building materials to repair or improve home to $3,500 (husband and wife may not double)
Tools, implements, materials, instruments, uniforms, books, furnishings, & equipment to $8,725 total ($17,450 total if used by both spouses in same occupation); amount of exemption for commercial motor vehicle not to exceed $4,850 ($9,700 if used by debtor and spouse in same trade)

   (more...)

Auto/Truck (aka Motor Vehicle)

Motor vehicles to $3,325, or $3,325 in auto insurance for loss or damages (husband and wife may not double)

  (more...)

Wild Card

None (use federal non-bankruptcy wage exemption)

Deposit Accounts  to amount "necessary for the support of the judgment debtor, as well as the judgment debtor’s spouse and dependents"(CCP 704.225.) Using this exemption, a family living paycheck to paycheck could likely exempt an entire account balance; however, courts have yet to weigh in on the new law. A debtor must assert this exemption for it to apply.

  (more...)

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California Bankruptcy Exemptions

Does California Adjust Exemptions for Inflation?

California's exemption amounts are no longer updated in the statutes themselves. California Code of Civil Procedure section 703.150 deputizes the California judicial council to update the exemption amounts every three years. (The last revision was  in 2019; the next will be 2022.) As a result, the amounts listed in this chart (from the 2019 revisions) may not match the amounts that appear in the cited statutes. The current exemption amounts can be found on the California Judicial Council Website.

Can I Use the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions in California?

Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions Available?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which closely mirrors the federal scheme. 

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Background of state "opt out" laws

Every state has a list of exemptions that protect specific types and amounts of property from collections on judgements within that state.

When bankruptcy law was first modernized 50 years ago, the proposal was to have a federal list of bankruptcy exemptions apply uniformly across all 50 states. Many states objected to this idea, because state collection law had traditionally ruled that issues of collections and "asset protection" were matters of state, not federal law. So a compromise was struck, that allows states to "opt out" of the federal bankruptcy exemptions. 

Federal Non-Bankruptcy Exemptions

Federal "non-bankruptcy" exemptions are available in every state

You are entitled to use so-called federal "non-bankruptcy" exemptions in addition to your state law exemptions.

Non-bankruptcy exemptions are those exemption provisions of U.S. law that are NOT part of the bankruptcy code section section 522(d).

The four most significant non-bankruptcy exemptions are for

  • Wages (a general cap on what percentage of your wages can be garnished),
  • Social Security benefits,
  • Civil Service benefits,
  • Veterans Benefits

Other so called "non-bankruptcy" exemptions mostly deal with various benefits to government and military personnel, with a few odd laws regarding specially-regulated labor markets such as railroad workers, seamen, and longshoremen.

 

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

Citations and links to primary law and secondary sources are provided for those who wish to do further research. Every effort has been made to make this information up to date and accurate, but laws can and do change without notice. Persons relying on this information are responsible for confirming its timeliness and accuracy before relying on it. (This information was updated for April 2019.)

Also bear in mind that these brief summaries do not list every detail or exception to these exemptions. For example, there are often exceptions for collection of child support debt and/or taxes. These listings are designed to inform you of laws that exist for your benefit, so that you may exercise what rights you may have.

Finally, this website is intended to provide information only. It cannot answer whether your property does or does not qualify for a specific exemption.

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Homestead

California Homestead Exemption - New! 2021 Exemption Calculator

$300,000 to $600,000 depending on county, and median sale price for a home in prior calendar year.

2021 California Homestead Caclulator (by County)

Amount Joint amount

$300,000 to 600,000, depending on county

$300,000 to $600,000 depending on county

NOTE: Residency Requirement Caps Maximum Homestead at $160,375 if you've recently moved to a State that allows more than that

Under the 2005 bankruptcy law, you must be have lived in the state for at least 40 months (3 years + 4 months) before you can claim any homestead protection greater than $160,375. (If your state's exemption offers less than this amount, the law is irrelevant to you.) .

IF you are moving to another state, OR you moved to California within in the last two years, click here.

Federal Non-Bankruptcy Homestead Exemptions (available in every State)

These are exemptions under federal law, and not part of the bankruptcy code, so states cannot "opt out" from these exemptions.

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US Bankruptcy Code § 522(d) Homestead Exemption

Can a California debtor use the Federal Bankruptcy exemptions instead of California exemptions?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which closely mirrors the federal scheme. 

The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions under 11 U.S.C. § 522(d) are available to you if

  • you haven't lived in any state longer than 180 days for a while,
  • or
  • if your state allows the Federal exemptions as a choice.

California residents saw a more generous homestead exemption, as of January 1, 2021, when the standard Homestead exemption increased from $75,000 to a range from $300,000 to  $600,000 depending on your county.

LegalConsumer.com has added a California Exemption Calculator to help you quickly find what the exemption amount is in your county.

The new law states that the homestead exemption amount is based on:

  • the median county-wide sale price for a home
  • in the previous calendar year
  • But not less than $300,000
  • and not more than $600,000.

The California Homestead calculator shows you the 2020 overall median sales price for every county in California county based on available numbers from the California Realtors Association. Those numbers may change slightly when the official numbers are finalized for the year 2020. As of this update, Mar 1, 2020, the numbers you see in the calculator are based on the 12 month average of monthly median numbers for January 2020 through December 2020. 



Home Valuation tool

Just add your street address to get an estimate of the value of your house, and all others in your neighborhood. (Note: Does not serve all areas, and valuations are imperfect estimates only.)

Homestead Exemptions in Other States

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TBE

Does California Recognize Tenancy by the Entirety?

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Tenancy By The Entirety in Other States

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Insurance

California Insurance Exemptions

Federal Non-Bankruptcy Insurance Exemptions (available in all states)

US Bankruptcy Code § 522 Insurance Exemptions

The Federal Bankruptcy Code Exemptions under section 522 are available to you if

  • you haven't lived in any state longer than 180 days for a while, or
  • if your state allows the Federal exemptions as a choice.

Does California allow debtor the option of using the Federal Bankruptcy exemptions instead of state law exemptions?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which closely mirrors the federal scheme. 

Insurance Exemptions in Other States

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Misc

California Miscellaneous Exemptions

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US Bankruptcy Code § 522 Miscellaneous Exemptions

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Does California allow debtor the option of using the Federal Bankruptcy exemptions instead of state law exemptions?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which closely mirrors the federal scheme. 

The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions are available to you if
  • you haven't lived in any state longer than 180 days for a while, or
  • if your state allows the Federal exemptions as a choice.

 

Miscellaneous Exemptions in Other States

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Pensions

California Pension Exemptions

Federal Non-Bankruptcy Pension & Retirement Exemptions (available in every state)

Federal Bankruptcy Code § 522(d) Pension & Retirement Exemptions

The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions under 11 U.S.C are available to you if

  • you haven't lived in any state longer than 180 days for a while, or
  • if your state allows the Federal exemptions as a choice.

Does California allow debtor the option of using the Federal Bankruptcy exemptions instead of state law exemptions?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which closely mirrors the federal scheme. 

Pension & Retirement Exemptions in Other States

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Personal Property

California Motor Vehicle Exemption & Other Personal Property Exemptions

California Motor Vehicle Exemption

Motor vehicles to $3,325, or $3,325 in auto insurance for loss or damages (husband and wife may not double)

California Personal Property Exemptions

Federal Non-Bankruptcy Personal Property Exemptions (available in every state)

Federal Bankruptcy Code § 522(d) Personal Property Exemptions

The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions are available to you if

  • you haven't lived in any state longer than 180 days for a while, or
  • if your state allows the Federal exemptions as a choice.

Does California allow debtor the option of using the Federal Bankruptcy exemptions instead of state law exemptions?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which closely mirrors the federal scheme. 

Personal Property Exemptions in Other States

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Public Benefits

Public Benefits Exemptions for California

Federal "non-bankruptcy" Public Benefits exemptions (available in all states)

Federal Bankruptcy Code §522(d) Public Benefits Exemptions

The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions are available to you if

  • you haven't lived in any state longer than 180 days for a while, or
  • if your state allows the Federal exemptions as a choice.

Does California allow debtor the option of using the Federal Bankruptcy exemptions instead of state law exemptions?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which closely mirrors the federal scheme. 

Public Benefits Exemptions in Other States

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Tools of Trade

California Tools of Trade Exemptions

California Tools of Trade Exemptions

Federal non-bankrupcty Tools of Trade Exemptions

US Bankruptcy Code § 522 (d) Tools of Trade Exemptions

The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions are available to you if

  • you haven't lived in any state longer than 180 days for a while, or
  • if your state allows the Federal exemptions as a choice.

Does California allow debtor the option of using the Federal Bankruptcy exemptions instead of state law exemptions?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which closely mirrors the federal scheme. 

Tools of Trade Exemptions in Other States

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Wages

California Wage Garnishment

Federal Non-Bankruptcy Law (available in all states)

Federal "non-bankruptcy" law also offers exemption protection for wages.

US Bankruptcy Code § 522 Wage Garnishment Exemptions

The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions are available to you if

  • you haven't lived in any state longer than 180 days for a while, or
  • if your state allows the Federal exemptions as a choice.

Does California allow debtor the option of using the Federal Bankruptcy exemptions instead of state law exemptions?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which closely mirrors the federal scheme. 

Wage Garnishment in Other States

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WildCard

California WildCard Exemption

None (use federal non-bankruptcy wage exemption)

Deposit Accounts  to amount "necessary for the support of the judgment debtor, as well as the judgment debtor’s spouse and dependents"(CCP 704.225.) Using this exemption, a family living paycheck to paycheck could likely exempt an entire account balance; however, courts have yet to weigh in on the new law. A debtor must assert this exemption for it to apply.

-

Federal Bankruptcy Wildcard Exemptions

The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions are available to you if

  • you haven't lived in any state longer than 180 days for a while, or
  • if your state allows the Federal exemptions as a choice.

Does California allow debtor the option of using the Federal Bankruptcy exemptions instead of state law exemptions?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which closely mirrors the federal scheme. 

-

WildCard Exemptions in Other States

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