Most people who file for either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in the Atlanta filing district will not lose anything. You will not have to give up any of your personal property, nor will you have to surrender real estate.
If your property is secured by a debt (like a mortgage or car loan) you may choose to give back the house or car to eliminate the payment obligation. This is a choice you can make prior to filing after consulting with your lawyer.
The reason you are very unlikely to lose any property when filing bankruptcy has to do with a special state law called the Georgia exemption statute. Even though your bankruptcy case will be filed in federal court, Georgia law controls what you can protect from claims of creditors or the bankruptcy trustee.
The Georgia exemption law does not protect an unlimited amount of property but for the vast majority of bankruptcy filers, all of your property will be protected. Your lawyer can provide specific exemption planning guidance based on your specific situation.
Some of the highlights of the Georgia exemption statute include:
- protection of up to $21,500 of equity in real estate (doubled to $43,000 if you file with your spouse)
- protection of up to $10,000 of equity in a car or truck (doubled to $20,000 if you file with your spouse)
- protection of up to $5,000 of household goods (doubled to $10,000 if you file with your spouse)
- protection of up to $500 of jewelry (doubled to $1,000 if you file jointly with your spouse)
- 100% protection of your IRA or 401(k) or company pension
- $1,500 protection plus up to $10,000 of unused real estate exemption for cash or any property. This “wildcard” exemption can be added to any other listed exemption (this is also doubled if you file jointly with your spouse).
The law contains several other categories of exemptions. You can view the exemption statute directly by clicking here. This version of the exemption statute is valid as of 2018- the Georgia legislature changes the numbers periodically so never rely on what you read on the Internet. In researching this article I noted numerous websites that referenced prior versions of the Georgia exemption statute with incorrect (and less favorable) exemption numbers.
You would be wise to consult with an experienced Georgia based bankruptcy law firm like Ginsberg Law Offices to learn more about how the Georgia exemption law applies to you. Every state has its own exemption rules so web sites published by out of state lawyer will not be valid for you. Further, as noted above, many local and national bankruptcy information sites contain outdated and incorrect information about exemptions available to Georgia residents.
If we can answer your questions about any aspect of personal bankruptcy law, please do not hesitate to reach out to use by phone or email.