Jewelry When Worn Might Be Protected in Massachusetts

17 Oct Jewelry When Worn Might Be Protected in Massachusetts

I recently posted that the Massachusetts exemptions are downright penurious except for home equity and retirement funds. Great creativity and tenacity is required when attempting to protect other assets, such as finding the hundred year old case which allowed a watch to be protected as a tool of a trade. Here’s an argument which can be used to protect all jewelry so long as it is being worn when the trustee might hypothetically come to take it.

The Massachusetts exemption statute begins with the the phrase that assets which were protected “at common law” are still protected. Common law is an ill-defined sense of what a judge thinks that the general population belives to be a rule to live by. There is room for much disagreement and appeals, but once a ruling is established it is very difficult to overturn.

At common law, “articles of dress or adornment” could not be seized while being worn for this was “impolitic” and an unreasonable seizure. Maxham v. Day, 82 Mass. 213, 220 (Mass. 1860). A creditor might requestt an injunction for the turnover of valuable jewelry, but an injunction is not “common law, lies outside the exemption statute, and arguably lies outside the bankruptcy provision applying state exemption law.

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L. Jed Berliner practices exclusively in consumer bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, and related consumer protection litigation such as credit card defenses and suing debt collectors. He established his Springfield, MA practice in 1988. Attorney Berliner is a regular and active contributor to the Bankruptcy Law Network, the Bankruptcy Roundtable, and the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, three specialized consumer bankruptcy forums on the Internet, and is an informal mentor to regional practitioners. He is recognized by his peers as an expert in consumer bankruptcy issues. He thoroughly enjoys being rated "excellent" in his client surveys.

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