SW Legal studies in Business

Inherited Wedding Rings Not Exempt Property Under State Law
Description Wyoming high court held that the wedding rings a bankrupt individual had inherited from her mother, which were not used as wedding rings, were not exempt property and so were property of the estate. The state law differs from federal law in this regard, as permitted by the Bankruptcy Code.
Topic Bankruptcy
Key Words Chapter 7; Exempt Property; Jewelry
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Winters filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Among her assets were two diamond rings inherited from her mother. They are sentimental objects, not used as wedding rings. Winters listed the rings as being worth $200 and claimed them as exempt as "necessary wearing apparel." The bankruptcy estate objected to that classification. The question was posed to the Wyoming high court as to whether the rings were exempt.
Decision

The legislature intended to make jewelry nonexempt from bankruptcy proceedings, with the limited and explicit exception of wedding rings; in that respect, the state statute differs from the federal bankruptcy exemption statute, which allows exemption for jewelry. These rings are not wedding rings as anticipated by the statute and do not constitute "necessary wearing apparel." The object of the exemption statute is not to secure to the debtor the enjoyment of property at the expense of creditors, but to prevent the debtor from being stripped of articles of utility and convenience to maintain the debtor and his family in a household.

Citation In re Winters, 40 P.3d 1231 (Sup. Ct., Wyo., 2002)

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