I would suggest that you look at these laws for yourself. I often advise clients to leave only a small amount of money in their accounts, because clients have a habit of ignoring what I say and then blaming the attorney when the trustee wants a piece of the $5,000 or more that is sitting in their account.
Hope this perspective helps!
An individual Chapter 7 debtor is entitled to an exemption of $2875 under California 704 exemptions, and joint debtors are entitled to $4300 exemption. The trustee is not going to take a few hundreds of dollars, especially if you are using the bank account to pay your household bills.
There are a series of exemptions allowed in bankruptcy, some for general categories of assets, some more specific. You can pick and choose the exemptions that apply to your situation. 704 exemptions are only for wages and do allow garnishment of no more than 25% of wages earned. There are also other exemptions for retirement accounts, children's college savings accounts, Social Security direct deposit accounts, etc. One tactic is to use some of the money to pre-pay rent, car payment, household supplies, etc. This will reduce the amount in the account to a level that is unattractive to a trustee. Also keep in mind that the trustee cannot take your assets without a court order, so you have some protection. Trustees are usually not going to go after small amounts in bank accounts because they have to spend money to do this - go to court, hire an attorney, etc. There has to be enough in the account to make it worthwhile for the trustee to get it.
Lysbeth Goodman is an attorney licensed in the state and federal courts of California. This answer is for general information only and does not create an attorney client relationship between Lyasbeth Goodman and any other person. You should schedule a consultation with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your legal issues.
As one of the previous attorneys suggested, you may be able to "change" the character of the asset from "non-exempt" to "exempt" by either pre-paying some expenses or converting them to, say qualified retirement plans. If you have some other assets and your "wild card" has been exhausted, you could then follow this technique.
However, this conversion and its disclosure can be tricky and you should hire an attorney to help you out with them. Believe me, the money you spend in attorney fees will be money very well spent which could save you substantial assets.
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