Are funds in my 401(k) plan protected from creditors if I file personal bankruptcy?
Under the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (a.k.a. the Bankruptcy Reform Act) tax-exempt retirement plan accounts (including qualified plans, traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, 403(b) plans, 457(b) plans, SEPs, and SIMPLE plans), are protected from an employee's creditors in the event of bankruptcy. With the exception of the Traditional IRA and Roth IRA assets, all of these tax-exempt retirement assets are protected without a dollar limit.
Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs are protected up to $1 million dollars under the federal law. However, some states may provide additional protection beyond the federal limits. Additionally, the language in the federal law seems to suggest that any funds rolled over from an employer retirement plan are fully protected even if the amount exceeds the $1 million dollar limit.
Keep in mind that there are exceptions to the protection provided under the Bankruptcy Reform Act. Certain liens and debts are not discharged or fully discharged under this law. These include:
• Tax liens,
• Debts for luxury goods/services,
• Cash advances,
• Judgments against you for death or injury caused while intoxicated,
• Domestic support obligations,
• Educational loans,
• Debts incurred to pay taxes, fines and penalties,
• Debts from divorce or separation,
• Homeowner association, condominium, and cooperative fees,
• Fees on prisoners,
• Pension or profit sharing debts, and
• Debts or liens incurred from interference with lawful provision of services.
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