Homestead Exemption in Bankruptcy

What Is a Homestead Exemption?


What Is a Homestead Exemption secBankruptcy exemptions protect certain assets from liquidation during bankruptcy proceedings. These exemptions vary by state and cover property like homes, vehicles, and personal possessions.

A homestead exemption allows you to protect some or all of your equity in your primary residence when you file for bankruptcy. This means that despite your financial upheaval, you don’t necessarily have to lose your home.

When you file for bankruptcy, nonexempt property—such as vacation homes, bank accounts, and family heirlooms—becomes part of the bankruptcy estate. Exemptions such as a homestead exemption allow a certain amount of your primary home’s value to be protected, or “exempt,” from the debt owed to creditors. It acts as a financial shield, enabling many people to keep their homes even when facing bankruptcy.

This process can be complicated, and having an ally can be helpful. Consider consulting an experienced bankruptcy attorney to help you review the Georgia bankruptcy laws related to your situation. Our bankruptcy lawyers at Cherney Law Firm LLC are experienced in answering your queries and can work tirelessly on your behalf to protect your home.


Georgia Homestead Exemption Statute


As per 11 USC § 522(b) within the Bankruptcy Code, specific states, such as Georgia, permit an individual debtor to safeguard certain types of property – including real estate, personal belongings, and intangible assets – from being included in the debtor’s estate. These protected assets, known as exemptions, are shielded by state regulations, preventing them from being sold off and distributed to creditors.

A homestead exemption protects equity up to a specific predetermined value. Homestead exemption statutes vary in different states. While some states allow exemptions as per federal law, Georgia doesn’t allow federal bankruptcy exemptions. However, it may be possible to supplement Georgia’s state exemptions by incorporating non-bankruptcy federal exemptions such as federal and military retirement accounts and disability payments.

Georgia bankruptcy exemptions allow homeowners to protect up to $21,500 of the equity in their home when they file for bankruptcy (Georgia Code Section 44-13-100). You can exempt the amount in either real estate or personal property used as a residence by the debtor or a dependent, in a cooperative housing property where the debtor or a dependent resides, or in a burial plot for the debtor or a dependent.

The state’s homestead exemption also protects couples filing a joint bankruptcy. In such circumstances, they are allowed a doubled homestead exemption of up to $43,000.


Wildcard Exemption

In Georgia, a wildcard exemption allows you to safeguard any property valued at up to $1,200. If you haven’t utilized the full extent of the state’s homestead exemption, you can apply up to $10,000 of the remaining homestead exemption to protect other assets.


Other Exemptions

Bankruptcy exemptions in Georgia protect assets other than homes in the following manner:

  • Motor Vehicle Exemption: You can safeguard up to $5,000 of equity in one or more motor vehicles.
  • Personal Property Exemptions: Household items like furnishings, clothing, and appliances are exempt up to a combined total of $5,000, not exceeding $300 per item, and jewelry valued at up to $500.
  • Tools of the Trade Exemption: You can exempt up to $1,500 worth of implements, books, or tools necessary for your trade or occupation.


Homestead Exemption in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy


Chapter 7 bankruptcy entails liquidating your assets through an orderly, court-supervised procedure. During the liquidation process, a homestead exemption helps to protect the equity in your primary home from creditors, allowing you to maintain a basic standard of living.

In Chapter 7 plan, homeowners need to turn over all the property they can’t protect with an exemption. The court-appointed trustee takes over the debtor’s house and sells it. The trustee then returns the exempted amount to you. The bankruptcy trustee deducts sales costs and trustee’s fees. The trustee uses the remaining amount to pay creditors.


Homestead Exemption in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy


Chapter 13 bankruptcy helps reduce your payments. Chapter 13 bankruptcy involves the rearrangement of debts into a 3-5-year repayment plan. Unlike Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 trustees don’t sell your property. So, it’s a desirable means of debt settlement for homeowners to keep their residences.


Eligibility Criteria for Filing a Homestead Exemption


Eligibility Criteria for Filing a Homestead ExemptionHomestead exemptions serve as a safeguard to protect a portion of your home equity from creditors and bankruptcy trustees. Essentially, it’s a legal provision that allows you to keep your home under certain conditions.

A residency of at least 180 days in the state is required to initiate bankruptcy proceedings in Georgia. However, eligibility for Georgia exemptions necessitates a more extended period of residence, expressly, two years or 730 days as a Georgia resident.

The size of the exemption determines how much of your home’s value—technically, your equity in the home—can be protected in bankruptcy proceedings. Your home equity is calculated by subtracting any mortgage or lien balances from the current market value of your home.

To determine your eligibility for a homestead exemption, make sure that you meet the following requirements:

  • The home must be your legal residence for all intents and purposes.
  • You must actually live in the home.
  • You can’t claim a homestead exemption on another property, whether it’s in Georgia or another state.

Once you’ve confirmed your eligibility, you can select the homestead exemption that best suits your circumstances.


Potential Challenges and Limitations of Bankruptcy Homestead Exemptions


Debtors face varying limitations when dealing with homestead exemption in bankruptcy. These challenges include:

Multiple Residences: Homeowners with several properties are entitled to homestead exemption only for their principal residence.

Equity Limits: Georgia limits the amount of equity that can be protected via homestead exemption. If your home value exceeds the equity limit, you might be unable to exempt it in bankruptcy.

Property Transfers: Transferring property to relatives to shield it from creditors can be considered fraudulent. Thus, the bankruptcy court could deny or minimize your homestead exemption.


Contact Cherney Law Firm LLC Today!


Are you contemplating filing for bankruptcy in Georgia? Consider contacting a skilled bankruptcy lawyer at Cherney Law Firm LLC. Our bankruptcy attorney, Marietta, GA can help you navigate the bankruptcy process in a manner that safeguards your home from being liquidated.

Let us review your exempt assets and let you know what type of bankruptcy suits you. Contact our law firm by phone or online so that we can help file for homestead exemptions. Schedule an initial consultation with us today!

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