You can’t take it with you… but—what CAN you keep in a bankruptcy?

There’s a lot of confusion and misconceptions about what you ‘lose’ or have to ‘give up’ through a bankruptcy and what is ‘exempt’ – meaning what you get to keep.

When you enter into bankruptcy (with the assistance of a Bankruptcy Trustee) this legal option will address your insolvency, provide you immediate protection from you creditors and an opportunity for a fresh start. (Remember, while most debts are covered by bankruptcy – not all are, talk to a Trustee for specifications.)

There are some assets you may not be allowed to keep if you file for bankruptcy. These are sold to pay as much as possible to your creditors against your debt. However, there are assets you are legally allowed to keep, these vary by province.

Some of the items you are generally able to keep, in Alberta, are:

  • Clothing up to a value of $4,000
  • Household furnishings and appliances to a value of $4,000
  • One motor vehicle not exceeding a value of $5,000 (equity)
  • Medical and dental aids required by you and your dependents
  • The equity in your principal residence up to a value of $40,000. If you are a co-owner of the residence, the amount of the exemption is reduced to an amount that is proportionate to your ownership interest
  • Personal property (i.e., tools, equipment, books) that you require to earn income from your occupation up to a value of $10,000
  • Social allowance, handicap benefit or a widow’s pension if the proceeds from the payment are not intermingled with your other funds
  • For farmers where your principal source of livelihood is farming: you may be able to keep up to 160 acres and personal property that you require for the proper and efficient conduct of your farming operations for the next 12 months

In BC:

  • Home equity in Greater Vancouver and Victoria up to a value of $12,000. In the rest of the province up to a value of $9,000
  • Equity in household items up to a value of $4,000
  • Equity in a vehicle up to a value of $5,000; The vehicle exemption drops to $2,000 if the debtor is behind on child care payments (to facilitate the enforcement of Maintenance Orders)
  • Equity in work tools up to a value of $ 10,000
  • Equity in essential clothing and health aids is unlimited

Keep in mind, if you chose instead to do a Consumer Proposal as your debt solution—you get to keep all your assets. A consumer proposal may also reduce your overall debt (by up to 75%). A Proposal isn’t bankruptcy but rather a means to explore other ways to address a variety of debt problems.  With the guidance of a Trustee you negotiate to pay creditors all, or a portion, of your debt over a specific time period or to extend the time allowed repaying the entire debt.  You need the majority of creditors to agree to the proposal—then all unsecured creditors are bound by it.

With a Consumer Proposal you keep control of your assets and it has shorter-term – and less significant – impact on your credit rating than bankruptcy.

More on bankruptcy exemptions in Canada.

If you are facing financial struggles or would like some help with managing your debt—one of our professionals is available to discuss your situation. There are many options available.  Contact us for a confidential, no-obligation, free consultation. Call us toll free from anywhere in Western Canada: 310 8888 or visit us online for more information and videos on this and many other topics: (AB) or (BC)

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