Who Can Protect Personal Property From Being Attached To Pay A Debt?
“Any individual” living in West Virginia can protect personal property from being attached to pay a judgment debt. You do not have to be a “head of household.” This protection is available to “any individual residing in this state.” This protection is called a “Personal Property Exemption.”
West Virginia law allows you to protect certain items of property from being taken by a creditor. This protection is available even against payment of a valid legal judgment. The purpose is to assure that families and children have at least some money to cover the basic necessities of life.
What Is a “Personal Property Exemption”?
A “Personal Property Exemption” allows “any individual residing in this state” to “exempt” some personal property from the normal court judgment collection process.
Assume a creditor or landlord sued you. He won a court judgment that says you owe the money. He has certain ways he can try to collect the money, like taking money from your bank account or having the sheriff "attach" your cars or household goods to sell. The money produced from the sale would be used to pay the debt.
The Personal Property Exemption can protect some of your property from these collection powers. The law puts a cap on the dollar amount you can protect, for different types of personal property. If your dollar values are less than those caps, you can protect all of your property; if your dollar values are more than those caps, you can protect some but not all personal property.
The procedure for the Personal Property Exemption is not automatic. You must file an “Exemption Form” with the court. The Court then will issue a “release” to stop the collection procedure. The collection procedure will not stop until the release is given to the bank or sheriff.
What Property Can Be Protected?
There are five categories of personal property. Each category has its own dollar limit on how much can be protected:
- One motor vehicle -- Up to $5,000 total value
- Household goods, appliances, clothing, books, etc -- Up to $8,000 total value
- Implements, professional books, or tools of trade -- Up to $3,000 total value
- Money in bank accounts or savings & loan accounts -- Up to $1,100 total value
- Money in an IRA or retirement account -- No dollar limit