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What personal items are protected from garnishment?

The state of Washington provides for legal protection of certain personal items from garnishment and other forms of debt collection. For example, the personal clothing on anyone within a family is protected up to a value of $3,500. The value limitation is made to make some valuable items, such as jewelry or furs, available for garnishment.

Family keepsakes and pictures are generally protected. Media libraries -- both physical and digital -- are protected up to a value of $3,500 for each individual. Individuals are also afforded protection for common household items and furniture up to $6,500 in value for each person. If the value of a single item exceeds $750, however, it might be made available for debt collection or settlement purposes.

Some amounts of cash are also protected. According to the state legal code, up to $1,500 in cash is protected. It is important to note that these protections are not available for all types of debts. Debts owed to state or federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, do not always abide by such protections.

It's important to understand how to protect your family and your assets when you are facing debt. Debt relief is possible, and there are a number of legal options for seeking relief before you begin considering the loss of your personal belongings. In many cases, bankruptcy proceedings can stop garnishments and other actions.While bankruptcy does sometimes involve giving up personal property in order to pay debts, the legal proceeding provides you with the time and options to make choices that are better for your family and your future.

Source: Washington State Legislature, "Personal Property Exemption," accessed Oct. 30, 2015

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