When should I file a Declaration of Exempt Income and Assets?

Use this packet ONLY if you are sure that your income and assets cannot be garnished. Use this packet with the Answer a Lawsuit for Debt Collection - Self-Help Forms or How to answer a lawsuit for debt collection. #0206EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Yes, but only if you are sure your income and assets cannot be garnished. Read Money that cannot be taken from you ("garnished") to pay off a debt to learn more.

Use this packet with our How to answer a lawsuit for debt collection packet.

We also have an online interview program called Answer a Lawsuit for Debt Collection that creates the court forms. You can use this program instead of the How to Answer a Lawsuit for Debt Collection packet if you do not want to handwrite your forms.

The declaration form attached to this packet is not in the online interview. A link to the interview is on the home page of WashingtonLawHelp.org in the Self-Help Forms area.

Yes, if you want to fight (to defend) the lawsuit/complaint. If you do not file a formal written response - called an Answer - to the lawsuit, the judge will enter a Default Judgment against you. This means the judge will rule in favor of the person who is suing you (called the Plaintiff).

If you want to get notice of the status of the case or of when the court actually enters judgment against you, you must file a Notice of Appearance.

The plaintiff will win automatically. Plaintiff will get a judgment for everything Plaintiff's complaint asked for.

It means that even though the court has entered a judgment against you, the creditor cannot collect on the judgment. They cannot take any of your money.

By law, creditors cannot garnish or take certain types of income or money from you to pay off a debt. The most common types of income exempt from garnishment are (see a full list on the declaration form):

  • Social Security

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits

  • Aged, Blind, or Disabled (ABD) benefits

  • Child support you receive

  • Veteran's Administration (VA) benefits

  • Unemployment Compensation

  • Federal student Loans

  • Most pensions

  • Workers compensation

  • All or part of your wages, depending on how much you earn and what you are being sued for 

  • Consumer debt. This means debts from credit cards, doctor and hospital bills, utility and phone bills, personal loans from a bank or credit union, debts owed to a landlord or former landlord, or any other debt for personal, family, or household purposes.

  • If you are sued on a consumer debt, creditors cannot take any of your wages if you earn less than $569.80 weekly (35x the state minimum hourly wage). If you earn more than this amount, you may still keep 35x the state minimum hourly wage or 80% of your net pay, whichever is more.

*Net pay is your earnings after subtracting mandatory deductions.

 

*Mandatory deductions include Social Security, Medicare, and federal income taxes.

 

The law also exempts (protects) some property:

*The above are just some examples. For a complete list of exempt property, see the Declaration of Defendant Regarding Income and Assets Exempt from Garnishment below.

 

    • Private student loan debt—If you are sued on a private student loan debt, creditors cannot take any of your wages if you earn less than $953.00 weekly (50x the highest minimum hourly wage in the State). If you earn more than this, you can keep 50x the highest minimum hourly wage in the State or 85% of your net pay, whichever is more.

    • Other debts—If you are sued on other debts that are not consumer or private student loan debts, creditors cannot take any of your wages if you earn less than $253.75 weekly (35x the federal minimum hourly wage). If you earn more than this amount, you can keep 35x the federal minimum hourly wage or 75% of your net pay, whichever is more.

    • Your home, where the equity value is the greater of $125,000 or the county median sale price of a single-family home in the previous calendar year. Equity is the amount of money you would keep after you sold your home and paid off the mortgage and other liens. You can find the median sale price of homes in your county at wcrer.be.uw.edu/archived-reports.

    • Clothing—up to $3,500 in value

    • Household goods—up to $6,500 per person or $13,000 for a married couple

    • A cell (mobile) phone, personal computer, and printer

    • A car—equity in your car is exempt up to $15,000

    • Money in your bank account:

      • $2,500 is exempt if your only judgment is for private student loan debt.

      • $2,000 is exempt if the judgment if for consumer debt.

      • $500 in your bank account is exempt for all other debts (and $1,000 additional cash, for a total exemption of up to $1,500)

    • In the case of married persons or registered domestic partners, each spouse/partner is entitled to the exemptions of personal property, which may be combined with the other spouse's exemption in the same property.

A declaration is a sworn statement. The Declaration of Exempt Income and Assets lets your creditors know you have income or assets they may not take from you.

You can use the blank Declaration of Exempt Income and Assets in this packet.

Only when you know for sure your income and assets are exempt.

Creditors are very good at finding out what assets and income you have. Be honest in this declaration.

  • Income (#4): Only check the box (or boxes) that apply to you and the type of income you get. Example: You receive Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Child Support payments. Only put check marks in those 2 boxes.
  • Assets (#5):  Check every box that applies.
    • Example: If you do not own a home and are renting, do not check the homestead box.
    • Example: If you think your clothing, books, video games and DVDs, household goods, and other personal property are worth less than the amounts stated on the Declaration form, you should check those boxes.
    • Example: If the car you own may be worth more than $3,250 (the amount stated on the Declaration form), you can still check the box for motor vehicles, but if your car is worth thousands more than that, a creditor could try to sell it. The creditor would have to give you the first $3,250 from the sale before taking anything to collect on the judgment.
  • Last part of the declaration:  Sign the declaration. Put the date you signed. Signing guarantees that all information in the declaration is true.
  • Do not attach any documents to the Declaration.
  • You can file the Declaration with the Court and send it to Plaintiff or Plaintiff's attorney, if there is one, at the same time you file your Notice of Appearance and/or Answer. See our How to answer a lawsuit for debt collection packet or the online Answer a Lawsuit for Debt Collection interview program.

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Last Review and Update: Jan 23, 2024
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