Under Minn. Stat. § 550.37, subd. 4, “[a]ll wearing apparel, one watch, utensils, and foodstuffs of the debtor and the debtor's family; and (b) household furniture, household appliances, phonographs, radio and television receivers of the debtor and the debtor's family...” are exempt. See In re Irwin, 232 B.R. 151 (Bankr. Minn. 1999).
In Part II, I discussed what happens to your furniture, and televisions. For the most part, if their value is less than $11,250, you will not have to worry about losing those items. But, what about household appliances? More specifically, what does the court consider to be a household appliance?
For the most part, a refrigerator, an oven, and a washing machine are household appliances, so do not worry about losing those items. But what about your computer? Going back to the court case mentioned above, the court held that a computer was not a household appliance. The court went on to state, “if the legislature determines that computers should be exempt, it can amend the statute again, but that is a legislative decision not within the province of this court.” Id. Since, 1999, the Minnesota legislature has not redefined the law to include a computer as a household appliance. So, if you have a computer or laptop that is worth, for example, $500, then you would either have to give that computer to the trustee or pay the value of $500 to keep it.
However, the same court case found that a lawnmower is a household appliance. So, if you have a lawnmower, do not worry about losing that.
Minn. Stat. § 550.37, subd. 4 needs to be modernized. Most debtors facing bankruptcy may not have a phonograph and if they do, it is protected. But, technology has come a long way and many people depend on their laptops, and cell phones for everyday needs; including employment and personal use. As such, I would contend that a cell phone and a computer are household appliances, but, unfortunately, a trustee may not agree.
Until then, if you have questions or are ready to get your life back, reach out to Minnesota’s nicest bankruptcy law firm by going to www.kainscott.com. You won’t regret it!