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There is no hard and fast rule that answers this question. While bankruptcy laws are individual to each state, settlement money awarded to you is a type of property. Depending on where you live, how much and what is exempt, you may be able to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and still keep part if not all of your settlement.

While settlements are considered property, you must always include them in your bankruptcy petition papers. Leaving settlement money out of the equation can cost you your bankruptcy discharge or could lead to more serious consequences, like being charged with trying to defraud the bankruptcy court.

Many states let you chose either the federal exemption list or your state’s exemption list. Although Florida is not one of those states, there are several overlapping exemption characteristics. For example, Florida does offer a wildcard exemption that can be used to exclude your settlement. If you are married and filing bankruptcy jointly, you and your spouse both may max out the exemptions equally, including the wildcard. If your settlement was awarded to you during your marriage or to both of you, you may be able to double up on the wildcard exemption to save more of it, and if your settlement was awarded to you because of hazardous work conditions it is exempt automatically.

Although Florida filers can’t choose the federal bankruptcy exemption list, there is a short list called the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions that may also be applied to your case. While there is no exact guideline for exempting settlement money in Florida bankruptcy law, speaking to an attorney can help. With their knowledge and experience, you can get the maximum exemption for your property and take comfort in knowing you didn’t give anything up without a fight.