Below is a side-by-side comparison of some of the most common California bankruptcy exemptions. A Debtor must choose either System 1 or System 2. The law does not permit a Debtor to pick and choose from each System. There are more exemptions available that are not listed below. Your Bay Area bankruptcy attorney will discuss all exemptions available to you.

Property Type
System 1 (CCP 703)
System 2 (CCP 704)
Can apply up to $28,225 that debtor or dependent use as residence, or in personal property.
(1) $75,000 if single debtor.
(2) $100,000 if debtor is family unit.
(3) $175,000 if debtor or spouse is at least 65 years old, disabled, or if annual income is less than $15,000 or $20,000 if married.
“Declared homestead”
“Automatic homestead”
Household furnishings & personal effects
$675 in each item held primarily for personal, family or household use.
Exempt to the extent reasonably necessary for the personal use of debtor or dependent at debtor’s residence.
$5,350 equity in one vehicle
(1) $2,900 in a personal vehicle
(2) $7,625 in a business vehicle
Tools of the Trade
$8,000 where used in the trade of the debtor or a dependent
$7,625 exempt to the extent necessary to and actually used by the debtor in a business or trade ($15,250 when debtor and spouse are in same trade)
Retirement, Pensions etc.
The right to receive payment to the extent reasonably necessary for support of debtor or dependent, unless it does not qualify under IRS Code.
All amounts held, controlled or distributed from “private retirement plan.”
75% of paid earnings within the last 30 days
75% of unpaid earnings unless debtor proves that some or all of excess is necessary for support of debtor’s family
Jewelry, Heirlooms and Art
$1,600 in jewelry only
$7,175 in jewelry, heirlooms and art


As an example of how exemptions work, let’s assume that Debtor is a 40 years old single parent with one dependent child, earns $60,000 per year, works as mechanic, and has the following: Debtor has a car worth $15,000 and a remaining loan balance of $5,000, i.e., $10,000 in equity. He has $8,000 in cash in the bank, and tools and equipment he uses at the workplace worth $12,000. His IRA contains $250,000. Debtor also owns electronics and household furnishings worth $10,000 if he were to replace them at fair market value in their current used condition. Debtor wants to keep everything.

Debtor would use the CCP 703 wildcard exemption. Since the car has $10,000 in equity, Debtor would use the $5,350 vehicle exemption, and take $4,650 from the wildcard to cover the $10,000 in equity. Debtor would apply $8,000 from his wildcard to keep the remaining cash in his account. His work tools would be protected by the tools of the trade exemption up to $8,000, and the remaining amount would be exempted by taking $4,000 from the wildcard. At age 40 with a child, Debtor’s IRA of $250,000 would be fully exempted. Every necessary household item is protected by $675 in each item.

San Francisco bankruptcy lawyers from JC Law Group PC will help you to maximize the protection of your assets in the bankruptcy process. Please call us at 415-963-4004 or fill out our online consultation request.