Finally, a win in the Florida Supreme Court for bankruptcy debtors. In February, the Osbourne v. Dumoulin decision puts to rest an issue in Florida where judges disagreed on how much personal property a debtor could keep when filing bankruptcy. Generally a debtor using Florida state exemptions can keep $1,000 in personal property. They can retain additional personal property, but they have to pay to keep anything above the exempt amount. However, if a Florida debtor is not claiming a homestead exemption, they can claim a larger $4,000 wildcard exemption to protect additional personal property such as bank accounts, equity in vehicles etc.
Even our four bankruptcy judges in Tampa, Florida disagreed on how to apply the wildcard exemptions in cases where the home was underwater. After Dumoulin, in cases where the debtors own a home that has negative equity, they can now claim an additional $4,000 wildcard exemption to keep additional personal property. This can be very valuable since Florida’s personal property exemptions are one of the lowest in the country. Most people haven’t minded too much because Florida’s homestead and IRA/401k exemptions are very favorable to debtors. But nowadays, many people have negative home equity and have cashed out or borrowed against their 401ks and don’t receive the benefit of those broad exemptions.
Application of exemptions can be complicated especially in cases where the debtor has recently moved from another state, please consult with an attorney regarding the proper use of exemptions. Arkovich Law