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California Exemption Notes

Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions NOT Available

California does not allow use of the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions.

Two Exemptions Systems Offered Under State Law

California  has two systems of exemptions under its state law. You must choose one state system or the other.

(CA) The ‘homeowner’ set of California exemptions  — Section 704 offers a more generous homestead exemption up to $678,391, or less, depending on your county, but has no wild card exemption, and has a smaller exemption for motor vehicles but a larger exemption for jewelry.

(C2) The ’non-homeowner’ set of California exemptions —  Section 703 set of exemptions, under California Code of Civil Procedure § 703, basically mirrors the federal exemption system under 11 USC section 522, offering a homestead exemption of $29,275, but that exemption can be used as a wildcard exemption for personal property if you don't use that amount to protect real estate.

And you may use the Federal Non-Bankruptcy exemptions listed below.

Big Changes in 2023

S.B.1099: Signed into law on September 28, 2022. The bill went into effect January 1, 2023. Highlights include:

  1. "Ride through" option restored for vehicles (no more repos for failure to reaffirm).
  2. Homes protected from trustees selling them due to post-petition appreciation where had been fully protected by the homestead exemption on the petition date. Such appreciation will also be exempt.
  3. Spouses living separate or apart from a non-filing spouse will no longer require a waiver from the non-filing spouse to utilize our alternate set of exemptions (which are usually more favorable for non-homeowners).
  4. Increases the motor vehicle exemption to $7,500 for both sets of exemptions.
  5. Creates new exemption fully exempting vehicles converted for use by a disabled debtor, spouse or dependent.
  6. Creates new exemption for up to an aggregate amount up to $7,500 for accrued or unused vacation pay, sick leave, family leave or wages.
  7. Creates new exemption for payments from settlement agreements arising from debtor's employment (e.g. workplace harassment).
  8. Creates new exemption for alimony, maintenance and support which was not previously included in the set of exemptions which includes the homestead exemption.

Source: NACBA - National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys

California does NOT allow doubling

The California State Law exemptions may not be doubled by joint filers.

Other Listings of California Exemptions on the Web

Nolo, and UpSolve both offer listings of California exemptions, but may be out of date. 

For Up To Date Amounts See California Judicial Council, Form EJ-156 (Current Dollar Amounts of Exemptions from Enforcement of Judgments) (effective July 24, 2023)

OPT OUT STATUS:

Can I use the §522(d) Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions in California?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which ("C2") closely mirrors the federal scheme. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 703.130 

KEY EXEMPTIONS:

Homestead

$339,196 to $678,391 depending on the county, and the median sale price for a home in prior calendar year.

2023 California Homestead Calculator (by County)

Motor Vehicle

Motor vehicles to $7,500, or $7,500 in auto insurance for loss or damages for 90 days (husband and wife may not double)

Wildcard

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.

Personal Property

Jewelry, heirlooms & art to $9,525 total (husband and wife may not double)Health aids
Building materials to repair or improve home to $3,825 (husband and wife may not double)
Tools, implements, materials, instruments, uniforms, books, furnishings, & equipment to $9,525 total ($19,050 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)
Deposit accounts  to $1,826 (as of July 2021 MBSAC for family of 4)

See Also:
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  • Homestead

  • Homestead [US] Real property, including co-op or mobile home, or burial plot to $27,900; unused portion of homestead to $13,950 may be applied to any property
  • Tenancy by Entirety

  • Tenancy by Entirety [US] Tenancy by entirety is exempt only if debtor chooses State & Non-bankruptcy exemptions.
  • Insurance — Life, Disability

  • Insurance — Life, Disability [US] Disability, illness, or unemployment benefits
  • Insurance — Life, Disability [US] Life insurance payments from policy for person you depended on, needed for support
  • Insurance — Life, Disability [US] Life insurance policy loan value, in accured dividends or interest, to $14,875
  • Insurance — Life, Disability [US] Unamtured life insurance contract, except credit insurance policy
  • Pensions & Retirement Savings

  • Pensions & Retirement Savings [US] All types of retirement funds and accounts that tax-exempt under IRC section 401, 403, 408, 408A, 414, 457, or 501(a) ; IRAs & Roth IRAs limited to $1,512,350 (excluding rollover contributions); limitation can be overidden by judge.
  • Personal Property

  • Personal Property [US] Animals, crops, clothing, appliances, books, furnishings, household goods, musical instruments to $700 per item, $14,875 total
  • Personal Property [US] Health aids
  • Personal Property [US] Jewelry to $1,875
  • Personal Property [US] Lost earnings payments
  • Personal Property [US] Motor vehicle to $4,450
  • Personal Property [US] Personal injury recoveries to $27,900 (not to include pain & suffering or pecuniary loss)
  • Personal Property [US] Wrongful death recoveries for person you depended on
  • Public Benefits

  • Public Benefits [US] Crime victims' compensation
  • Public Benefits [US] Social Security
  • Public Benefits [US] Unemployment compensation
  • Public Benefits [US] Veteran's benefits
  • Tools of Trade

  • Tools of Trade [US] Implements, books, & tools of trade to $2,800
  • Wages

  • Wages [US] None
  • Wild Card

  • Wild Card [US] $1,475 of any property
  • Wild Card [US] Up to $13,950 of unused homestead exemption amount, for any property.
  • Miscellaneous

  • Miscellaneous [US] Alimony, child support needed for support
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