How Does Bankruptcy Affect Exempt Assets In Ontario?

Understanding the Impact of Bankruptcy on Exempt Assets in Ontario

Bankruptcy is a complex process that can be intimidating, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the legal and financial implications. One of the primary concerns for individuals considering bankruptcy is the potential loss of personal assets. This article aims to demystify the process by providing a detailed overview of how bankruptcy affects exempt assets in Ontario.

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s first define what exempt and non-exempt assets are.

Exempt assets are those that, according to the provincial law, are protected from being seized in bankruptcy. Non-exempt assets, on the other hand, are those that can be sold to repay creditors. The distinction between exempt and non-exempt assets varies from province to province. In Ontario, the Bankruptcy & Insolvency Act and the Execution Act outline the exemptions.

Exempt Assets in Ontario

Let’s now delve into the specifics of how bankruptcy affects exempt assets in Ontario.

In Ontario, several personal and essential items are protected by bankruptcy laws and are thus considered exempt assets. The exempt assets in Ontario include:


  • All personal clothing
  • A single motor vehicle worth up to $7,117
  • Household furniture, appliances, and food valued up to $14,180
  • Tools or equipment used for work up to a value of $14,405
  • Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) and Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF) contributions, excluding those made in the 12 months preceding bankruptcy
  • Most pensions and life insurance policies
  • Equity in your home up to $10,783


Federal Exemptions

In addition to provincial exemptions, some assets are also protected under federal law. These exemptions include:


  • Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) credits;
  • RRSP and RRIF savings;
  • Property held in trust for another individual;
  • Registered Disability Savings Plan (RDSP) savings;
  • Certain government benefits and payments such as Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), and Child Tax Benefit.


Non-Exempt Assets in Ontario

Non-exempt assets are the assets that can be sold to repay creditors in the event of bankruptcy. In Ontario, these assets include:


  • Equity exceeding the exemption limit in the primary vehicle or any additional vehicles;
  • Unprotected investments, including Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) balances;
  • Cash exceeding necessary short-term living expenses;
  • Valuable items such as jewelry, coin collections, and artwork;
  • Inheritance;
  • Secondary or vacation properties;
  • Tax refunds related to income earned prior to filing for bankruptcy.


The Intersection of Bankruptcy and Home Ownership

Many individuals contemplating bankruptcy are particularly concerned about the possibility of losing their homes. It’s crucial to understand that the likelihood of losing your home depends on several factors, including the amount of equity you have in your home, your ability to continue making mortgage payments, and whether or not your home is your primary residence.

In Ontario, if the equity in your home (the home’s market value minus any outstanding mortgage) is less than or equal to $10,783, you can keep your home when you file for bankruptcy. However, if the equity exceeds this limit, you may have to sell your home to repay your creditors.

The Impact of Bankruptcy on Automobile Ownership

The impact of bankruptcy on automobile ownership depends on the value of the vehicle and the outstanding loan amount. In Ontario, if your vehicle is worth $7,117 or less, it is considered an exempt asset, and you can keep it during bankruptcy.

However, if you owe more on your car loan than what the vehicle is worth, or if the value of the vehicle exceeds the exemption limit, you might need to surrender the vehicle to your creditors.

The Role of Licensed Insolvency Trustee

A Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT) plays a crucial role in the bankruptcy process. They administer the bankruptcy, selling non-exempt assets and distributing the proceeds to creditors. They also provide guidance to individuals navigating bankruptcy, helping them understand their rights and responsibilities.

Consumer Proposal as an Alternative to Bankruptcy

For individuals with substantial non-exempt assets, a consumer proposal might be a more suitable solution than bankruptcy. A consumer proposal is a legally binding agreement between you and your creditors that outlines a plan for repaying a portion of your debts over time, generally up to five years.

Unlike bankruptcy, a consumer proposal allows you to keep all your assets while still addressing your debt issues. However, it’s essential to work with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to determine the best course of action based on your specific circumstances.

Bankruptcy Exemptions in Other Provinces

It’s worth noting that bankruptcy exemptions vary by province. For instance, in Alberta, individuals can exempt up to $40,000 in equity in their primary residence, whereas in British Columbia, the limit is $9,000, unless the property is in Vancouver or Victoria, where the exemption limit is $12,000.

In Conclusion

Bankruptcy is not a punishment; it’s a legal process designed to provide financial relief to those overwhelmed by debt. While it can have significant implications for your assets, understanding how bankruptcy affects exempt assets in Ontario can help you make an informed decision about your financial future.

Remember, if you are facing financial difficulties, it’s crucial to seek advice from a qualified professional. A Licensed Insolvency Trustee can provide valuable guidance and help you explore all available options to address your financial challenges.

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