I hear this one quite a bit, people are afraid that a bankruptcy Trustee or someone from the Court will come in their house, and take their TV or their furniture or their microwave. I've never had it happen yet here in Texas, and I've filed about 8,000 cases.

In Texas, it's possible to claim as "exempt" or safe from creditors, up to $30,000 worth of personal property if you are single, or $60,000 if you are a couple. "Personal property" is everything that you own that is not land or real estate like a house.

So it includes cars and trucks, but it only refers to the equity in your property. So if you own a pickup truck or SUV, and it's worth $15,000, but you owe $16,000, there is no equity in it at all that counts toward the $30,000/$60,000 exemption limits. Very few people that come in to meet with me have any non-exempt personal property.

And that makes sense; if you are having money problems, you will usually have already spent down your savings and investments, and sold your truly valuable items to raise more cash to pay down debts. So generally, if you have lived in Texas for at least two years so that you can claim the exemptions that are available under Texas law, you don't have to worry about a bankruptcy Trustee coming into your house.

Now I understand it is different in other states. I read once that in Florida, it is common for Trustees to go to people's houses and take an inventory or inspect the property, and that is because (at least at that time) Florida's exemptions were very low, like $1000. If you filed bankruptcy, all you could keep was $1000 worth of stuff.

You either had to let the Trustee take all the rest of your personal property like furniture and appliances, or you had to "buy back" your items from the Trustee. That just doesn't seem right; you're broke, and you are expected to live in an empty house or apartment? If the Florida exemptions are still that low, they ought to change them.

J Thomas Black
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Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization
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