Changes to New York's Bankruptcy Exceptions

Back in July I have written about a pending bill which would have changed New York’s bankruptcy exemptions and allowed debtors to use the current federal exemptions or the exemptions in New York Law. At the time, it was impossible to predict whether the bill would ever become law.

On December 23, 2010, the bill was signed into law and will become effective in 30 days. This is the biggest change in New York’s bankruptcy exemptions in years, and will make a tremendous impact on the debtors filing both Chapter 7 Bankruptcy and Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

Homestead Exemption Increases to $75,000 per person for those in Rochester and Western New York

Right now each homeowner can protect only $50,000 worth of equity in a house. However, for those living in Rochester and Western New York Counties, that amount will increase to $75,000. Since a married couple can combine their exemptions, that means that a couple will be able to protect a $150,000 worth of equity in their home.

This will enable almost any typical Rochester middle class family to file bankruptcy to eliminate their credit card debts while protecting their home. In my Rochester, New York, bankruptcy practice, I periodically meet with homeowners who are forced to file for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy instead of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy because they have too much equity in their homes. Now, almost everyone will be able to seek Chapter 7 Bankruptcy relief and keep and protect their homes.

Amounts for Almost All Other New York’s Exemptions Categories Are Being Increased and New Categories Are Being Added

The new law also increases the exemptions for many other assets such as cars, and adds some new categories like home computers and vehicles for the handicapped.

Comparison of New York’s Old and New, 2011 Bankruptcy Exemption Statutes

Existing New York State Bankruptcy ExemptionsNEW New York State Bankruptcy Exemptions
Homestead Exemption (note: this can be combined for married couples filing jointly, who own the real estate together)

$50,000

Homestead Exemption (note: this can be combined for married couples filing jointly, who own the real estate together)

$150,000 for property in the downstate New York (Counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Kings, Queens, Bronx, Richmond, Rockland, Westchester and Putnam)

$125,000 for property in the Counties of Dutchess, Albany, Columbia, Orange, Saratoga and Ulster

$75,000 for all other counties

Motor Vehicle

$2,400

Motor Vehicle

$4,000

Motor Vehicle equipped for use by a disabled person (new category)

$10,000

Cash Exemption if Homestead Exemption is taken

None

Cash Exemption if Homestead Exemption is taken

$1,000. (Note: New exemption. Can also be used for personal property. However, the Federal Exemption is much greater and allows debtors to protect much more in appropriate situations.)

Jewelry and Art

a wedding ring

a watch worth up to $35

Jewelry and Art

a wedding ring

a watch, jewelry and art worth up to a total of $1,000 (Notes: New exemption. This will make it much more difficult for trustees to seek payment for engagement rings)

Tools of Trade (these are the working tools and implements that are necessary to carry on one’s business)

$600

Tools of Trade (these are the working tools and implements that are necessary to carry on one’s business)

$3,000

Aggregate Individual Bankruptcy Exemption for Cash, Household Goods and Clothing

$5,000

Aggregate Individual Bankruptcy Exemption for Cash, Household Goods and Clothing

$10,000

The New and Increased Exemptions Will Benefit Future Bankruptcy Debtors

Not only will more consumers be able to file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, but it will also help those debtors filing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy since they may be paying substantially less through their monthly Chapter 13 plan. In addition, existing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy debtors may be able to convert their cases to Chapter 7 and eliminate all future monthly payments.

I have attached a copy of the actual bill here.

If you are contemplating filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, or are dealing with debt problems in Western New York, including Rochester, New York, Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation with a Rochester, NY, bankruptcy lawyer.

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