Background on exemptions for debtors in Missouri:
In bankruptcy there are exemptions that protect certain property, both real and personal, from most creditors and to give Debtors a fresh start. In Missouri, animals can be exempted up to a certain dollar amount. (In Kansas, live stock can be exempted up to a certain amount.) One of the interesting things for me is to ensure that we protect as much of our clients' property as possible. At the national meeting of bankruptcy attorneys we always talk about this issue. Taking the time to schedule the proper time to file a case to maximize Debtors' exemptions is one of the most powerful way of protecting our clients.
How the exception was determined by the judge:
A few years ago I was shocked that the Trustee's office filed an objection to a few things in my clients' petition. The main two were the exemption of cows as animals and a tractor as a motor vehicle. I was dumbrounded when I read the motion. Really, cows are not animals? Any child that has ever played 20 questions knows that cows are animals. I quickly ran into the office of the other attorney working with me. I showed them the document ... everyone I talked to was in shock. I went so far as to call one of the attorneys for the Trust to see if they had made a mistake. We took it to hearing before the judge, who laughed so hard. The tractor issue was resolved before the hearing as the Judge had already ruled that tractors are motor vehicles.
I was telling this story at a national meeting to other bankruptcy attorneys. They shared with me that one of their judges had ruled that race ponies could be pets. This led me to question what else could be something else than what you expect. These cases are very fact specific.
In the last year, a bankruptcy judge ruled that a gun, which was used for hunting food for the table was a household good. This was good news for the Debtors. This exemption would not apply to all guns, for example if the gun was never used to put food on the table. Now I wonder if fishing poles could be household goods in the right circumstances.
Let me know what you think. If you have a similiar or even crazier case please contact us, we would love to talk about it.