Keeping Your Swine in a Bankruptcy: Weird exemption laws in the United States

swineOne of the critical goals in any bankruptcy proceeding is to keep as much of your property out of the hands of the Trustee as you can. In fact, you want to keep all of it out of the Trustee’s hands (the so-called “no asset” case). After all, if the Trustee takes everything from you, the idea of a “fresh start” doesn’t really mean too much. Property which you as the consumer filing bankruptcy get to keep is known as “exempt” property.
Each state gets to decide this issue for itself– it can create its own set of exemption laws to define exempt property, it can adopt the federal exemption laws as its own, or it can create a hybrid – setting up its own exemption laws and allowing the consumer to pick whichever set of exemptions is best for their situation.
This is no laughing matter – disclosing all assets and the proper selection of exemption laws is critical for a successful bankruptcy filing. Just one more reason why you need an experienced attorney to assist you in your filing. For a more serious look at Ohio’s exemption laws, click here.
But I did get a chuckle out of reading some unusual exemptions my colleagues from other states shared recently in an informal survey. I hope you enjoy this list as well:
In Minnesota, the debtor gets to keep their family bible, a church pew, and a cemetery plot, regardless of the dollar amount. Minn. Stat. sec. 550.37 subd. 2 and 3.
Some states have a decidedly agricultural bent to their exemption laws. For example, in the Lone Star State you get to exempt:

Texas Property Code 42.002(a)
(10) the following animals and forage on hand for their consumption:
(A) two horses, mules, or donkeys and a saddle, blanket, and bridle for each;
(B) 12 head of cattle;
(C) 60 head of other types of livestock; and
(D) 120 fowl; and
(11) household pets.

It’s nice that you get to keep the forage on hand, 60 head of livestock can consume quite a bit of food. I wonder, however, if they get to keep a large chunk of land? I have never allowed 60 head of livestock to wander on my land, but I guess they would require several acres so as to enjoy their personal space.

Over in the Empire State, the same concept applies, but with an overt preference to milk cows, as opposed to beef cattle:

NYS CPLR section 5205(f): EXEMPTION FOR UNPAID MILK PROCEEDS. Ninety per cent of any money or debt due or to become due to the judgment debtor for the sale of milk produced on a farm operated by him and delivered for his account to a milk dealer licensed pursuant to article twenty-one of the agriculture and markets law is exempt from application to the satisfaction of a money judgment.
I think I got stuffed in a locker once because I would not give up my milk money. Nice to know that if I move to New York, I get to keep 90 percent of it, even the right to receive it.
In Virginia, the emphasis is more on the tools used in farming, not the animals. VA Code 34-27 includes : “two plows, one drag, one harvest cradle, one pitchfork, one rake, two iron wedges”
My colleague could not quite figure out why you get two plows but only one pitchfork. So that your spouse or child could plow along in tandem and save some time? Does that include a snow plow, or do they not need them in Virginia (I see tons of snowplows here in Northeast Ohio, all winter long).
In “that state up north” (Legendary Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes refused to call the state by name), the good people share Minnesota’s respect for the family bible, and the respect for farm animals, but thinks that two (2) cows ought to be enough for anybody:
600.6023. Property, insurance, homesteads, IRA accounts, pension rights; exemptions
Sec. 6023. (1) The following property of the debtor and the debtor’s dependents shall be exempt from levy and sale under any execution:
(c) A seat, pew, or slip occupied by the judgment debtor or the judgment debtor’s family in any house or place of public worship, and all cemeteries, tombs, and rights of burial while in use as repositories of the dead of the judgment debtor’s family or kept for burial of the judgment debtor.
(d) To each householder, 10 sheep, 2 cows, 5 swine, 100 hens, 5 roosters, and a sufficient quantity of hay and grain, growing or otherwise, for properly keeping the animals and poultry for 6 months.

One colleague mused over the Louisiana exemption for “family portraits.” His observation was that this is kind of odd (R.S. 13:3881(A)(4)(b))—after all, who would want someone else’s family portraits?

Iowa is well known as a producer of beef. But they choose to protect guns:

Iowa 627.6(2) 2. One shotgun, and either one rifle or one musket.

Not two shotguns: one long rifle has to be either a rifle or a musket. A musket? You can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a musket. Not that I have tried.

Speaking of Iowa, they must grow them big that state. Your cemetery plot can be an acre in size, and the Trustee can’t do anything about it. (An acre? Must be all that beef they eat).

A debtor who is a resident of this state may hold exempt from
execution the following property:

4. An internment space or an interest in a public or private
burying ground, not exceeding one acre for any defendant

Why did O.J. Simpson move to Florida after getting tagged with a huge civil judgment? Allegedly, so that he could put all of his money into a house, which you can keep with an unlimited dollar value.

My Ohio favorite? Knowing that if I should ever have to seek protection from my creditors in bankruptcy, my notary seal would be mine to keep:
ORC 2329.66(A)(15) A seal and official register of a notary public, as exempted by section
147.04 of the Revised Code;
If you are thinking about getting a fresh start through bankruptcy filing, call me at 216-642-8234 and schedule a free consultation. Let me know how many head of swine you keep on your one acre cemetery plot, and I will make sure that you get to keep them. Or shoot them with your musket and eulogize them with your family heirloom bible, if that’s your preference.

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