South Carolina Bankruptcy Exemptions


(Portions reprinted by permission from How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Nolo © 1989-2019 )

South Carolina Bankrupcty Exemptions Summary

(details below...)

Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions NOT Available in South Carolina

South Carolina has opted out of the Federal Exemptions (see below)

Homestead

Real property, including co-op, to $60,975 (joint owners to 121,950)

  (more...)

Auto/Truck (aka Motor Vehicle)

Real property, including co-op, to $60,975 (joint owners to 121,950)

  (more...)

Personal Property

Real property, including co-op, to $60,975 (joint owners to 121,950)

   (more...)

Wild Card

Real property, including co-op, to $60,975 (joint owners to 121,950)

  (more...)

Wage Garnishment Law

Real property, including co-op, to $60,975 (joint owners to 121,950)

  (more...)

More South Carolina Exemptions...

[Click here for more info & citations...]

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Homestead | Insurance | Misc | Retirement | Personal Property | Public Benefits | Tools of Trade | Wages | Wild Card |

South Carolina Bankruptcy Exemptions

Federal Bankruptcy Code Exemptions Not Available in South Carolina

Although the federal bankruptcy code provides a list of exemptions, these exemptions are not available in South Carolina. South Carolina law requires you to use the exemptions found in state law -- not the U.S. bankruptcy code.

Federal "non-bankruptcy" exemptions are available

However you are entitled to use so-called federal "non-bankruptcy" exemptions in addition to your state law exemptions. Non-bankruptcy exemptions are those found provisions of U.S. law that are not part of the bankruptcy code.

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.

Special Notes regarding South Carolina exemptions:

South Carolina exemption amounts are now adjusted periodically by the Office of Research and Statistics on July 1 of each even numbered year. See 15-41-30. (B)

Can you double exemptions for joint filers? (General principles)

If you are married and filing together, you and your spouse must use the same law; one cannot use federal law while the other uses state law. However, the exemption law chosen applies separately to each spouse. Thus, it is generally possible to double the amount of state law exemptions, Cheeseman v. Nachman, 656 F.2d 60 (4th Cir. 1981) (married couple filing a joint petition was entitled to double the Virginia homestead exemption), unless state law (e.g. California) specifically prohibits a couple from doubling certain exemptions. See First National Bank v. Norris, 701 F.2d 902 (11th Cir. 1984)(Alabama); Granger v. Watson, 754 F.2d 1490 (9th Cir. 1985)(California).

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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South Carolina Homestead Exemption

Almost every state provides protection for equity in the family home, and many states have increased the amount of protection in recent years. Seven states offer unlimited protection. Most states are not as generous.

New Federal Residency Requirement

Under the new bankruptcy law, you must be have lived in the state for at least 40 months (three years and four 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.) The law is poorly worded but seems to say that if you move from one home to another in the same state, you can claim that state's homestead protection.

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


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.)

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South Carolina Insurance exemptions

Virtually all states protect life insurance proceeds in some manner or another. Some restrict it to proceeds paid to a dependent. Many states also protect the cash-value or loan-value of insurance policies.

If a substantial amount of your assets are in life insurance, you may want to consult a professional to determine the extent to which those policies are exempt.

Special notes about South Carolina Insurance Exemptions: In re Sims, 421 B.R. 745 (Bankr.D.S.C., 2010) offers a good discussion of South Carolina's various insurance exemptions. Note that the exemptions in 38-63-40 are protection against the insured's creditors, not the creditors of the beneficiary.

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Miscellaneous other exemptions for South Carolina

This category covers items like partnership property, alimony & support payments.

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South Carolina Pensions & Retirement Savings Exemptions

The new federal bankruptcy law now automatically exempts a virtually all tax-exempt pensions and retirement savings accounts from bankruptcy, even if you are using state law exemptions. 11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(C). (See Help Topic: Special Rules For Retirement Accounts.)

The law protects up to $1,283,025 of any pension or retirement fund that qualifies forspecial tax treatment under Internal Revenue Code sections 401,402, 403, 408, 408A, 414, 457, or 501(a).

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South Carolina Personal Property Exemptions

This category covers your car, your non-retirement bank accounts, and most of your other personal possessions, other than your house.

States vary widely on how generous they are in this area. Some exemptions may be for any combination of property up to an aggregate amount. Other exemptions apply only to specific items, such as jewelry.

Remember that an exemption will not protect your car from being repossessed by the holder of the car loan you used to purchase the vehicle if you pledged the vehicle as security for the loan. To keep the car, you will have to pursue other options such as 'redemption' or 'reaffirmation.' See the help topics and How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy for more on this.

Auto Valuation Tools:

Both of these websites offer interactive tools to determine the current value of your used car.

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South Carolina Public Benefits Exemptions

Most states exempt public benefits, consistent with the notion that such benefits are intended as a safety net for the recipient.

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South Carolina Tools of Trade Exemptions

These are the things you use to make a living. An automobile or truck can be a tool of trade if you use it as such. Commuting to work doesn't count, but if driving is a necessary component of transacting your business, you can claim your vehicle is a tool of trade.

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South Carolina Wage Garnishment Laws

Most states have a wage garnishment law. In some states, wage garnishment laws can be used in bankruptcy as an exemption to protect income that you had coming due, but not yet received, as of the day you filed, for work you had already done -- so called "earned but unpaid wages".

In some states, the wage garnishment law protects not only wages owed to you, but also wages already in your possession and saved over time preferably holding it in a separate bank account. In other states wage garnishment laws do not protect wages once they are they are in your possession.

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South Carolina Wild Card Exemption

Most, but not all, states allow a so-called "wild-card" exemption that can apply to any property. The wild card exemption can be of particular help if one or more of your other exemptions falls short of protecting your equity. You may split your wild card exemption amount over multiple items and stack it atop other exemptions as needed to protect exposed equity.

  • Up to $5,900 for any property, from unused exemptions amounts for homestead, burial, motor vehicle, personal property, jewelry or tool of trade exemptions.
    S.C. Code Ann. 15-41-30 (A)(7)

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