Three Things You Should Know About the Homestead Exemption in Georgia

Family with money issues, looking into a homestead exemption.

One of the most common questions that people ask our Georgia bankruptcy attorneys is, “Will I lose my house if I file for bankruptcy?” The answer is that it depends on your situation and your goals for debt relief. The truth is that if you want to keep your house, bankruptcy might be the best way to do so.

Will I Lose My Home If I File for Bankruptcy in Georgia?

Some people believe that when you file for bankruptcy relief you lose all your property. This assumption is not correct. Most people who file a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy case in Georgia retain all their property. They may choose to surrender burdensome property that is secured by a mortgage just to get rid of the debt, but that is their choice. In a few cases, a person may decide that losing an asset is worth getting rid of thousands of dollars in debt.

Bankruptcy exemptions, like the homestead exemption, allow an individual to retain the property he or she needs after the bankruptcy case is complete to continue to recover from a financial crisis. Bankruptcy gives debtors a fresh start. Its purpose is not to leave people without basic necessities.

What Do You Need to Know About Georgia’s Homestead Exemption?

Under federal law, debtors claim certain exemptions when they file a bankruptcy case. States can use federal bankruptcy exemptions or enact their own exemptions. Georgia has elected to enact state bankruptcy exemptions. The information below pertains to Georgia’s homestead exemption.

1. It Protects Your Primary Residence

A homestead exemption protects the equity in your primary residence from being used to repay debts in a bankruptcy auction. Your creditors nor the Chapter 7 trustee can force you to sell your home or borrow against your home’s equity to repay debts if your home’s equity is below the allowed homestead exemption in Georgia.

Net equity equals the market value of your home less any legal liens against the home’s title. For example, if your home’s market value is $200,000 and your mortgage payoff is $150,000, your net equity in your home is $50,000.

2. Georgia’s Homestead Exemption is Limited

The amount of net equity you can protect with the homestead exemption is limited. The current Georgia homestead exemption is $21,500 per person ($43,000 if both spouses own the home and file bankruptcy together). 

If the equity in your home exceeds the maximum homestead exemption allowed in your case, the court could require you to use that equity to pay some of your debts. However, filing a Chapter 13 case can protect the equity in your home by allowing you to reorganize your debts into affordable monthly payments. Chapter 13 is designed to protect your property.

3. You May Not Be Permitted to Use Georgia’s Homestead Exemption

You must be a resident of Georgia for at least 730 days before filing a bankruptcy case to use Georgia’s bankruptcy exemptions. If you have not been a resident of Georgia for at least 730 days, there is a specific calculation that determines which bankruptcy exemptions may be used in your case.

Contact Our Georgia Bankruptcy Attorneys for More Information 

Bankruptcy is a useful tool for many people who are unable to repay their debts. Through a bankruptcy filing, you can protect your property and income while getting rid of debts. However, filing bankruptcy is not a decision that should be made without the assistance of experienced Georgia bankruptcy attorneys. Once you file a bankruptcy petition, you may not be able to dismiss your case without significant consequences. Schedule a consult with an experienced Georgia bankruptcy attorney today for a free consultation.

Posted in: Bankruptcy