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What is the bankruptcy wild card exemption?

Exemptions are given out when you file for bankruptcy in Washington, and anything that is exempt cannot be liquidated to satisfy your debt. This isn't done to give you a loophole, but to keep a bankruptcy filing from ruining your life and causing destitution. For example, homes and cars are often exempt since they are seen as necessary items.

However, what if you want to keep something that the law does not deem necessary and for which there is not an automatic exemption? What if you have property that is very meaningful to you on a personal level, for instance, and you don't want it to be liquidated on those grounds?

What you can do is to use what is known as the Wildcard Exemption. As the name implies, this can be used for almost anything. Rather than telling you what items are protected, you are told how much money you get for the exemption -- such as $3,000, for instance. You can then protect any items you own until you get up to that predetermined dollar amount.

It's important to note that there is both a state-level exemption and a federal exemption. The federal limit is $1,150, but the state limit in Washington -- this is different from state to state -- is $3,000. However, Washington law stipulates that you can't go over $1,500 in straight cash and you can't go over $500 in bonds, stocks and similar items.

When declaring bankruptcy, you must make sure that you know exactly how all of the laws and exemptions work so that you can retain the possessions that are rightfully yours.

Source: Houston Chronicle, "What Is the Wild Card Exemption When Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?" accessed Feb. 20, 2015

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