What Are the Georgia Bankruptcy Exemptions?

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Written by Karra Kingston, Esq.  
Updated June 22, 2020

Summary

When you file for bankruptcy you will learn that there are federal bankruptcy exemptions and state exemptions. Georgia does not allow you to use the federal exemptions. So, if you plan to file bankruptcy in Georgia, you will be limited to using only the Georgia exemptions. One exception to this rule is that you can use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions to protect certain retirement accounts and disability benefits.

What Are Georgia Bankruptcy Exemptions and Why Are They Important in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Many people are under a false impression that filing bankruptcy means that you have to give up all your property. This is simply not the case. When you file for bankruptcy, you get to keep some of your property. Georgia bankruptcy exemptions allow you to protect certain property with value. When you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy you are ultimately looking to start over. The bankruptcy court understands that you need a bed to sleep on and a car to drive to work so that you can maintain a basic standard of living even after filing bankruptcy to get debt relief. The bankruptcy law would not be fair if people who aren’t paying their debts are able to keep luxury items such as costly diamond jewelry, furs, and other luxury property that isn’t necessary. That’s why the Bankruptcy Code and applicable state bankruptcy laws specifically designate exempt property as such.

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Does Georgia Allow The Use Of Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions?

When you file for bankruptcy you will learn that there are federal bankruptcy exemptions and state exemptions. Georgia does not allow you to use the federal exemptions. So, if you plan to file bankruptcy in Georgia, you will be limited to using only the Georgia exemptions. One exception to this rule is that you can use the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions to protect certain retirement accounts and disability benefits. 

To use the Georgia bankruptcy exemptions, you must be a Georgia resident for at least 730 days (two years) when your bankruptcy case is filed. Congress implemented this rule to stop filers from moving to a different state just to use more favorable exemptions. 

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Georgia Bankruptcy Exemptions

Real Property Exemptions: Georgia Homestead Exemptions

The Georgia homestead exemption allows you to keep the home you are living in as long as you don’t have too much equity in it. Using a homestead exemption allows you to keep your property safe from creditors and the bankruptcy trustee. Georgia’s homestead exemption is doubled when both the person filing and their spouse have an interest in the home. 

The Homestead exemption in Georgia is $21,500 which can be used to exempt real estate, personal property, or a co-op if you or your dependent uses it as a primary residence. If the homestead exemption is not fully used, you are allowed to use up to $10,000 of the unused portion to protect personal property. This is known as the wildcard exemption. The wildcard exemption can be used to protect any kind of property unlike the homestead exemption which can only be used on real property. This is helpful if you don’t have enough exemptions to cover some of your property.

Personal Property Exemptions

Consumers filing bankruptcy can keep their personal property under the Georgia bankruptcy exemptions. Below are some of the things you can keep:

Jewelry: 

  • You can exempt up to $500 for the value of your jewelry under 44-13-100(a)(3)

Animals, Crops, Clothing, Appliances, Books, Furnishings, Household goods, and Musical Instruments, Health Aids, Burial Plot:

  • You can exempt up to $5,000 total for all of the property listed above. Keep in mind, however, you are only allowed a $300 exemption under section 44-33-100(a)(4). This means that each of the following pieces of property can only be valued at $300. So, if you have a couch worth $3,700 you won’t be able to use the exemption even though it is under the $5,000 limit because it is worth more than $300.

  • You can also exempt a burial plot as long as you don’t use the homestead exemption. 

Motor Vehicle Exemption:

  • If you have a car you can exempt up to $5,000 of value. 

Tools of Trade: 44-13-100 

  • Up to $1,500 for tools, books, and other necessities for your profession.

Other Georgia Exemptions

Wages- § 18-4-20

  • You can keep up to 75% of earned unpaid weekly earnings. Keep in mind that if the 75 percent is less than 40 times the accepted minimum wage amount set by the US guidelines it will supersede the 75 percent of earnings. Although not guaranteed, some bankruptcy judges will change wage exemptions for low-income earners. 

Retirement Accounts - 11 U.S.C § 522

Retirement Accounts can be exempt up to their full value. Below are the types of retirement accounts that fall under this protection:

  • Tax-exempt retirement accounts:

  • 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing, and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, IRAS, Roth IRAs, ERISA-IRAs, and qualified benefits 

  • Nonprofit corporations' employees; public employees; other pensions and IRA payments needed for support.

Money Benefits

Public Assistance:

The following can be exempt up to the full monetary value:

  • Workers' compensation.

  • Unemployment compensation, Veterans' benefits, social security, crime victims' compensation, and local public assistance.

  • Old age assistance.

  • Aid to the blind.

  • Aid to the disabled.

Life Insurance Proceeds: 

  • Only an unmatured life insurance policy of up to $2,000 of equity can be exempt

Other Insurance Interests: 33-29-15

  • Disability or health benefits up to $250 per month.

Alimony and Child Support: 44-13-100 

  • Alimony and child support needed for support is fully exempt at the maximum 

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Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 

Speaking with a Georgia bankruptcy attorney is a good way to get more information about the Georgia bankruptcy exemptions. A good bankruptcy lawyer will be able to review your financials and discuss whether a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy is the most appropriate for your current financial situation. Many bankruptcy lawyers provide clients with free consultations which you can benefit from. So, even if you don’t think you have the funds to hire an attorney, it’ll only cost you time to speak with one. Upsolve has free bankruptcy tools you can use to help you file for bankruptcy. If you have no nonexempt assets then filing for bankruptcy without an attorney can be a more affordable way to help you get out of debt. 

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