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Can I keep my family heirlooms in a bankruptcy?

The bankruptcy system is in place to allow those mired in debt to achieve a fresh start. It is not meant to punish you for losing control of your finances or to take away every one of your possessions. In fact, personal bankruptcy allows you to keep many items, leaving you as well-equipped as possible to make that fresh start. Some of the bankruptcy exemptions available in Pennsylvania include the following, up to a certain value:

-- Pension plans

-- Motor vehicles

-- Household goods deemed reasonably necessary

-- Some jewelry

-- Tools necessary for a profession

-- A portion of your home's equity

-- And many others

Unfortunately, family heirlooms are not one of the many bankruptcy exemptions you can ordinarily claim. While bankruptcy is a very effective tool for starting over, it does not come without costs. Giving up valuable family heirlooms is one such cost. Most people want to keep these treasures because of their sentimental value but technically, they are still an asset that you can live without.

With that said, it may possible to keep at least some of your family heirlooms by using what is called a wildcard exemption. This bankruptcy exemption empowers you to protect some of your personal items up to a certain value. The value of items allowed in a wildcard exemption is typically low, but you may still be able to hold on to family heirlooms that mean a lot to you on a personal level.

As you can see, bankruptcy law can be quite complex. To make the most of your bankruptcy and protect your most treasured assets, it makes sense to talk about your situation with a qualified legal professional.

Source: FindLaw, "Exempt vs. Non-exempt Property Under Chapter 7," accessed Oct. 10, 2016

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