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The Household Goods Exemption

By Adam Mack, J.D.
Bankruptcy can protect my house, but what about everything inside it?
The purpose of bankruptcy is twofold: to provide a fresh start for the debtor, and to ensure that the creditors receive their fair share of the bankruptcy estate. To help ensure that the debtor does get this fresh start, the courts have created a mechanism called an exemption. One of the most powerful exemptions in terms of protecting your property is the household goods exemption.

Kansas has opted to define its own bankruptcy exemptions, and the Kansas bankruptcy household goods exemption is far more generous than the version in the Federal code. Specifically, it says that a debtor may claim as exempt “the furnishings, equipment, and supplies, including food, fuel and clothing, for the person which is in the persons present possession and is reasonably necessary of the principal residence of the person for a period of one year.”[1] Note that there is no dollar limit on this exemption; however, a debtor is limited to a year’s supply of food, fuel, and clothing. These items must also be within a debtor’s possession and/or at their home.

Some of my clients have worried about that “reasonably necessary” caveat within the law, but the courts have ruled that “reasonably necessary” does not mean simply bare necessities. [2] Rather, “reasonably necessary” household goods are the things you’re accustomed to having according to your own standard of living. Most of the things in your home that you use day-to-day are exempt and cannot be seized as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.

However, one important caveat. If you have hobby equipment around your house, for example, sporting goods, firearms and weapons collections, secondary/hobby business equipment, inventory, etc. With most things in law, few issues are as straight forward as they seem. There are many qualified lawyers who file bankruptcy in Kansas, and most of them, including our firm, offer free consultations. It is always advisable to speak with an attorney before filing a bankruptcy to make sure you understand the implications of the action you are taking.

[1] K.S.A. §60-2304(a)

[2] Nohinek v Logsdon, 6 Kan. App. 2d 342 (1981)