Massachusetts bankruptcy exemptions kind to animals

After the holiday weekend, in a bit of a light mood, I thought I would take a look at some of the more obscure items on the list of Massachusetts bankruptcy exemptions.

The Massachusetts exemption scheme is reasonably kind to small farmers, allowing them to keep post-bankruptcy, “two cows, 12 sheep, 2 swine and 4 tons of hay.”

Debtors in Massachusetts may also keep “one pew occupied by the debtor or the debtor’s family in a house of public worship,” and “one sewing machine in actual use by each debtor or by his family, not exceeding $300 each in resale value.”

Of course most of these exemptions are relics of the state’s agrarian (and Puritan) past, and are seldom used by modern bankruptcy lawyers. The laws are simply kept on the books year after year, for while they offer most little help, they also do no harm.

Fishermen fare slightly better under the revised Massachusetts exemptions, which went into effect on April 7th: “boats, fishing tackle and nets of a debtor who is a fisherman and actually used by the debtor in the course of the debtor’s business, not exceeding $1,500 in value,” are exempt in a Massachusetts bankruptcy case. But this one, instead of being antiquated, may not actually be enough to protect most modern commercial fishing operations.


By Doug Beaton

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