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What Property Can You Keep When You File for Bankruptcy?

The myth that you lose everything if you file for bankruptcy is exactly that, a myth. In reality, bankruptcy filers in Georgia usually get to keep most or all of their important items by declaring them exempt from creditors under state law. If an item qualifies for an exemption, the item cannot be taken by the trustee and sold to repay your creditors.

Georgia law requires residents to use the state’s bankruptcy exemptions. To qualify for these exemptions, you must have lived in the state for least 730 days (i.e. two years) before filing bankruptcy. You can file after living here for as little as 180 days, but you would then need to use the exemptions provided by the law of your previous state of residence.

Here are some of the most-used bankruptcy exemptions in Georgia. The amounts listed will double if you and your spouse both own the item and you file bankruptcy jointly. These amounts are current as of 2022:

  • Homestead — You can protect up to $21,500 of home equity in a home used by yourself or a dependent. If you are married and the home is owned by only one spouse, the amount increases to $43,000.
  • Vehicle — You can protect up to $5,000 worth of motor vehicles. Other possible ways to keep your car include processes known as redemption or reaffirmation. You’ll want to ask your lawyer about what options would work best if you hope to keep your car.
  • Personal property — Georgia law allows you to keep up to $5,000 in clothing, household goods, appliances, furnishings, musical instruments, animals and crops. You’re also entitled to keep $7,500 in lost future earnings, $10,000 of any personal injury settlement you’ve received and any alimony/spousal maintenance you’re receiving.
  • Wages — You can keep 75 percent of your weekly disposable earnings or 40 times the state or federal hourly minimum wage, whichever is greater.
  • Public benefits — You get to keep unemployment benefits, Social Security benefits, public assistance, workers’ compensation, veteran’s benefits, old age assistance and aid received for blindness or disability.
  • Pensions and retirement accounts — You can keep your IRA and ERISA-qualified benefits. You also get to keep retirement accounts related to employment as a firefighter, police officer, public employee, teacher/other public-school employee or employee of a non-profit organization.
  • Insurance — You can keep certain life insurance proceeds, annuities and unmatured life insurance contracts.

You can also use certain federal nonbankruptcy exemptions, which may allow you to keep certain retirement accounts, disability benefits, military benefits and miscellaneous benefits.

Jeff Field & Associates helps people throughout the Atlanta area file for bankruptcy to obtain debt relief without losing everything. If you would like to talk to one of our attorneys, please reach out to us and schedule a meeting in any of our offices: Athens, Douglasville, Gainesville, Lawrenceville, Marietta or Scottsdale. Get your free consultation by calling 404-381-1278 or contact us online.

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