When families are falling behind on bills, it may not be long before debt collectors make efforts to force repayment. Filing for personal bankruptcy should cause collection attempts to stop, but eventually creditors may be able to stake claims to a person’s assets and property. Consumers should know, however, that state and federal laws prevent creditors from taking everything a person owns.

Depending on the state, there are sometimes slight differences between the consumer protections afforded by the state and federal government. Recently, the National Consumer Law Center released a report card on the efficacy of state protections. According to the report, Arkansas received a “D” for the effectiveness of state law.

Although this grade indicates there is room for improvement to protect struggling consumers, it’s important to note that it is possible to protect homes from seizure in Arkansas. Specifically, a quarter of an acre is protected for those living in a town and up to 80 acres of rural property is shielded from creditors. This helps to ensure that individuals aren’t left without a roof over their head while they are trying to find debt relief.

The report also points out that many state’s consumer protection laws are outdated. For example, Pennsylvania laws don’t protect household goods worth more than $300, but sewing machines don’t have to be forfeited.

Bankruptcy law is notoriously complex, so it may be difficult for a person to understand federal and state property exemption laws. However, an experienced attorney can help you understand how to keep your property and find a clean financial slate.

Source: Washington Post, “State laws offer consumers varying degrees of protections from creditors, report says,” Danielle Douglas, Oct. 9, 2013