If you are not using your homestead exemption (because the house is underwater, the exemption would be unnecessary), then you have a $1,000 motor vehicle exemption, plus another $4,000 in personal property that you can add to that. Since the vehicles are jointly held, the bankruptcy trustee
can force the sale of each. But, you could make the sale too expensive for the trustee to complete, by using part of the exemption for one and part for the other vehicle. The trustee must file an adversary proceeding to force the vehicle sales, and that will cost the trustee money and time. So, if you were to use say $2,000 on one vehicle, and $3,000 on the other, the trustee may decide that since he has to pay your spouse for her half of each vehicle, after sale, that it's not worth it to force the sale of either vehicle. In other words, the trustee would only get $1,000 out of the sale of the $4,000 vehicle, and $2,500 from the sale of the other. By the time the trustee gets done with the adversary proceeding, he/she could have easily burned through $5,000 worth of legal fees, making the sale a net loser.
Hope this helps.
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