Do I follow state or federal rules when I file for bankruptcy? 35 Answers as of June 26, 2013

I am trying to file for bankruptcy and I am not sure which rules I need to follow. It looks like the state and federal rules are differing in some ways. How do I know which one I need to do? Does this depend on the amount of money I owe?

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Breckenridge and Walton
Breckenridge and Walton | Alan D. Walton
Either is available. One state set has been declared unconstitutional, so you have to use the old set at 600.6023.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/24/2011
Mercado & Hartung, PLLC
Mercado & Hartung, PLLC | Christopher J. Mercado
The state laws in your jurisdiction will control. However, some states allow you to choose whether to take the state or federal exemption amounts.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 8/24/2011
The Law Office of Jacqui Snyder
The Law Office of Jacqui Snyder | Jacqui Snyder
Generally bankruptcy laws are federal, but exemptions are up to the states. In Ohio, we use the Ohio exemptions to protect your things. Filing without an attorney if you have property to lose is a bad idea. If you start a case then decide later that it was a bad idea, you may not be able to get out of the bankruptcy.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 8/18/2011
Eric J. Benzer, Attorney at Law
Eric J. Benzer, Attorney at Law | Eric Benzer
Federal with state laws too.
Answer Applies to: Maryland
Replied: 8/18/2011
Lehn Law, PA
Lehn Law, PA | Joseph W. Lehn
The decision on whether state or federal rules (I think you mean exemptions) differs depending on what state you are filing in. I have found this website to be very helpful www.exemptionexpress.com.
Answer Applies to: Florida
Replied: 8/17/2011
    Law Office of Asaph Abrams
    Law Office of Asaph Abrams | Asaph Abrams
    Fed and State laws intertwine. "Local Rules" add to the mix. It's not an either/or proposition. But like on the playground: follow The Rules to stay out of trouble. This answer (as well as our Web site) doesn't address all facts & implications of the question; it's general info, not legal advice to be relied upon; it creates no attorney-client relationship; it may be pertinent to CA only; it's independent of other answers. Hire legal counsel before acting or refraining from bankruptcy/legal action.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/17/2011
    Law Offices of John J. Ferry, Jr.
    Law Offices of John J. Ferry, Jr. | John J. Ferry, Jr.
    I suspect you are looking at federal versus state exemptions rather than rules. (If it is court rules you are wondering about, you must follow both the federal bankruptcy rules and the local bankruptcy court rules for your jurisdiction.) If you live in Pennsylvania, you probably are going to use the federal exemptions. While there are some situations where it makes sense to use the state exemptions, these cases are relatively rare. The key is to make sure you use a good bankruptcy attorney that understands the difference.
    Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
    Replied: 8/17/2011
    Paul Stuber, Attorney at Law
    Paul Stuber, Attorney at Law | Paul Stuber
    Even though it is a Federal court case when you file bankruptcy, you have some state laws that come into play. The most important is the exemption law. In Colorado you must use the state exemptions. But you may have to use the state law of the state you lived in less than two years ago.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/17/2011
    Burnham & Associates
    Burnham & Associates | Stephanie K. Burnham
    State or Federal rules are not optional unless you are referring to exemptions. It is important for you to understand that whether or not you are going to use the State exemptions or the Federal exemptions is going to depend on what type of assets you own and how much these assets are worth. You may need to evaluate which set of rules best fits your assets. You do not want to make a mistake with exemptions as you may lose property that you should be able to keep or have to pay money to the Trustee that is not necessary.
    Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
    Replied: 8/17/2011
    Financial Relief Law Center
    Financial Relief Law Center | Mark Alonso
    If you are a resident of CA, then you must follow the CA rules for exemptions as CA does not allow for Fed exemptions. CA has two sets of exemptions you can choose from. They are found at CA Code of Civ Procedure Sec 703 & 704.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/17/2011
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney
    Janet A. Lawson Bankruptcy Attorney | Janet Lawson
    You use the California state exemptions if you have lived in California for the last 2 years. There are tow sets (703 and 704) You can not mix them up. You must pick one set or the other.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/17/2011
    Heupel Law
    Heupel Law | Kevin Heupel
    Bankruptcy is a federal law that has its own set of laws and rules. The exemptions you use, however, are from your state. Bankruptcy is a law where lawyers specialize in the process, and thus, better to pay an attorney than risk losing everything by not doing it right.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/17/2011
    Charles Schneider, P.C.
    Charles Schneider, P.C. | Charles J. Schneider
    Bankruptcy law involves the use of both state and federal statutes but also uses the federal rules of bankruptcy procedure. Your question appears to confuse statutes which deal with substantive issues of law as opposed to rules which are merely procedural.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Greifendorff Law Office
    Greifendorff Law Office | John Greifendorff
    Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedures, Local Rules for your district and division BUT think of this you're taking an action that is very serious and has long term consequences, Bankruptcy Court is no place for an amateur, go get a lawyer.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/17/2011
    Eranthe Law Firm
    Eranthe Law Firm | Cate Eranthe
    Bankruptcy is federal law and has federal rules. Sometimes the federal law points to state law and if something is not covered by the federal law then you look to state law. In addition, in California there are state exemptions to choose from. Your best bet is to consult with a knowledgeable local bankruptcy attorney.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Dan Wilson Bankruptcy
    Dan Wilson Bankruptcy | Dan Wilson
    First of all, you should not try to file a bankruptcy without help of an attorney. There are too many pitfalls even in a "simple" Chapter 7 case. Bankruptcy is governed by the federal statute. It takes place in a federal district court. The process is supervised by the Chapter 13 trustee and the United States Trustee. Disputes which reach a judge are governed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The only relevant state law that comes to mind is the exemptions from garnishment statute, which (usually) governs exempt property in Chapter 7.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Mauritz Van Niekerk, Attorneys at Law
    Mauritz Van Niekerk, Attorneys at Law | Christiaan van Niekerk
    No it depends on the amount and type of exemptions you want to claim .
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Law Office of Michael Johnson
    Law Office of Michael Johnson | Michael Johnson
    No Fla has exemption.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 6/26/2013
    Law Office of Lynnmarie A. Johnson
    Law Office of Lynnmarie A. Johnson | Lynnmarie Johnson
    Generally you use the federal exemptions as they are more generous. Part of Michigan's exemptions have been declared unconstitutional. If you think you need them, then see a knowledgeable attorney you can walk you through them.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Carballo Law Offices
    Carballo Law Offices | Tony E. Carballo
    The U.S. Bankrutpcy Code and the Rules of the Bankrutpcy Courts control bankrutpcy procedure. State laws dealing with the legality and enforceability of contracts and property interests and transfers of property interests are binding on the banrkuptcy courts unless those laws conflict with the U.S. Constitution and federal laws. Also, Congress gave the states the option to determine what property is exempt (protected) in bankrutpcy and the majority of states have their own sets of exemptions applicable in bankrutpcy cases. There are no state rules that are applicable in bankrutpcy. This is a very difficult area for non-lawyers to understand but issues involving conflict between federal bankrutpcy rules and state laws are very rare. There is a difference between a rule and laws that are procedural and those that are substantive. This is why lawyers spend years in law school, have to pass the bar and then have to practice the rest of their careers to keep up with the changes in the laws and rules by the state legislatures, Congress and the federal and state courts.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Judith A. Runyon, Esq. Attorney at Law
    Judith A. Runyon, Esq. Attorney at Law | Judith A. Runyon
    Talk to a bankruptcy attorney about that.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Rosenberg & Press
    Rosenberg & Press | Max L. Rosenberg
    Now, if you were a bankruptcy attorney with the requisite knowledge of how to do what you think you can do on your own you would realize how terrifying your situation is. Don't file without an experienced bankruptcy attorney unless you really enjoy making mistakes that can seriously impact your life. You can not do it. This not like a model kit or do it yourself. It's not like a Suze Orman project. What baffles me is how many stupid people out there think they can actually do this! To answer your question, all bankruptcies follow federal bankruptcy procedure, however there are various state and local court rules and standing orders. I think you are actually asking which exemption laws to use. If so, it depends on how much equity you have in your house, how many cars you have, how much money you have in the bank, how many stocks and bonds, etc. Without understanding every iota of what you are doing, you are committing the greatest sin of hubris and pride in thinking you can save yourself a couple grand by doing your own bankruptcy. Ever heard of cost benefit analysis? Incidentally, depending on what state you are in, you may not be able to opt out of state exemptions. First find out if you are an opt out state, then make an appointment with an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. Thanks for tuning in.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Melinda Murphy Dionne, PC
    Melinda Murphy Dionne, PC | Melinda Murphy Dionne
    Bankruptcy filings fall under title 11 of the United States Code. All bankruptcies are federal court proceedings. State law comes into to play in bankruptcy cases in many ways. For instance, in Alabama your most commons exemptions are determined under state law. The Bankruptcy Court's website provides copies of the forms required to file a bankruptcy case. You can find the forms at www.alnb.uscourts.gov.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    The Schreiber Law Firm
    The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
    If you are having this much trouble at the beginning, you are facing the possibility of not being able to, or not properly protecting your assets and subjecting them to the trustee taking them. You should think about using an attorney. You could also put in 5 stiches with thread to sew up a cut, but why would you want to do it yourself when you can have a professional do it right? In answer to your question, bankruptcy law is federal. There is no state bankruptcy law. In some aspects of federal bankruptcy law, you may need or may not need to use the law of your state, such as exemptions.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Edward Papa, Esq.
    Edward Papa, Esq. | Edward Papa
    You should be using a Bankruptcy attorney because the rules regarding exemptions can be tricky. Depending on your length of residency in the state, you may need to use the Federal rules or even rules from a former state where you resided. Assuming you are entitled to choose between only NY or Federal exemptions, then you must determine which will protect your assets the best. You can not use both. Seriously, the most common problem with pro-se filers is they think it is simply filling out forms. When you screw up and the Trustee makes a move to take your property that could have been exempted them you will need to hire an attorney. I've had clients tell me afterwards that they were thinking of doing it themselves and they were glad they didn't.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Guardian Law Group PLLC
    Guardian Law Group PLLC | C. David Hester
    You file for Bankruptcy in the Federal Courts so you use the Federal Rulesand there may bespecific Federal District Court rules that must be followed in each Fed District. Some of the exemptions and income levels change according to state but they are set by Federal Courts.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    Your question is evidence of why no one should file pro se. Get a lawyer. Pro se cases are a disaster in most cases. Bankruptcy law is NOT a do it yourself project. Bankruptcy is a federal statute. However, various state laws (such as community property, exemptions and so on) do affect the outcome of the case. So do the local rules of each court. Get a lawyer. You will regret not doing so.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall
    Bankruptcy Law office of Bill Rubendall | William M. Rubendall
    Bankruptcy is a federal proceeding. The federal rules apply. In some states you are allowed to take state exemptions, depending on whether the state has "opted out" of the federal exemptions. Consult with a bankruptcy attorney for details.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Ray Fisher Law Offices
    Ray Fisher Law Offices | Ray Fisher
    Bankruptcy is federal so the rules are all federal. If you are referring to exemptions that is another matter. It is part of your lawyer's job to figure out which exemption scheme is best for you.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Tucker Legal Clinic
    Tucker Legal Clinic | Samuel Tucker
    By asking the question you betray the truth that is you need to hire a lawyer to help you with your bankruptcy. To answer the question: the applicable rules are Bankruptcy Rules - which are federal.
    Answer Applies to: Mississippi
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Ryan Legal Services, Inc.
    Ryan Legal Services, Inc. | Kevin Ryan
    You should consult with legal counsel as soon as possible. It is NOT advisable to try to represent yourself in a bankruptcy case, although it is your right to do so, at your peril.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Lewis Adams and Associates
    Lewis Adams and Associates | Lewis P. Adams
    The Bankruptcy Code allows states to opt out of the federal exemptions contained in 11 U.S.C. 522. Utah is opt out state, consequently, if you file in Utah, you must use Utah exemptions. The exception being unless you have lived in Utah for less than 2 1/2 years, then you use the prior state's exemptions.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Colorado Legal Solutions
    Colorado Legal Solutions | Stephen Harkess
    Bankruptcy rules of procedure are codified in the federal Code of Bankruptcy Court Procedure. I am guessing that you may be asking about exemptions. Whether to use state or federal exemptions depends on the state you live in and what is best for you. In some states, you can chose either system. In states like Colorado, the federal exemptions are not available. Colorado has opted out of the federal exemptions.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Bird & VanDyke, Inc.
    Bird & VanDyke, Inc. | David VanDyke
    Bankruptcy is federal law, however you must use california exemptions.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/16/2011
    Law Office of Maureen O' Malley
    Law Office of Maureen O' Malley | Maureen O'Malley
    It's a Federal statute, so you follow Federal BK rules. Exemptions follow State guidelines. Don't file alone. Check Google for NACBA, where you'll find a list of qualified lawyers in your area. It will save you money and stress and you'll know it's done right.
    Answer Applies to: Virginia
    Replied: 8/16/2011
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