Updated May 20, 2016
Like other states, Georgia has its own exemptions that you can use when you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Exemptions are laws that protect the value of your belongings, such as your home, car, or retirement accounts from creditors or the bankruptcy trustee. The Georgia bankruptcy exemptions determine which property you can keep in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy and play a role in how much you repay your creditors in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
In addition to Georgia’s own bankruptcy exemptions, there are a set of federal bankruptcy exemptions established by federal law. In some states, you are permitted to choose between the state exemptions and the federal bankruptcy exemptions, but Georgia is not one of those states. If you file bankruptcy in Georgia, you must use the Georgia state exemptions.
There are also a number of federal non-bankruptcy exemptions that you may use in addition to the Georgia bankruptcy exemptions. The federal non-bankruptcy exemptions protect items such as federal and military retirement accounts and disability benefits.
If you file a joint bankruptcy with your spouse in Georgia, you and your spouse can “double” your exemption amounts. This means you may each utilize the whole exemption amount. However, you may only claim an exemption for property that belongs to you. For example, you cannot use your vehicle exemption to protect your spouse’s car (unless you are a joint owner of the vehicle).
For more information about bankruptcy exemptions, including how they work, which state exemption system applies to you, and special homestead exemption rules, see Nolo’s Bankruptcy Exemptions topic page.
Here are some of the Georgia bankruptcy exemptions that bankruptcy filers often use. Unless otherwise indicated, all references are to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.
$21,500 of value in real or personal property, including a co-op, that you or your dependent uses as a residence, including a co-op. Up to $43,000 of value if married and the property is owned by only one spouse. Up to $5,000 of unused homestead exemption may be used to protect any other property. 44-13-100(a)(1) & (a)(6), 44-13-1
To learn more, see The Georgia Homestead Exemption.
$5,000 of value in motor vehicles – 44-13-100(a)(3)
To learn more, see The Georgia Motor Vehicle Exemption.
$500 of value in jewelry – 44-13-100(a)(5)
$5,000 of value in animals, crops, clothing, appliances, books, furnishings, household goods, and musical instruments (up to $300 per individual item) – 44-33-100(a)(4)
Burial plot (if you don't use the homestead exemption) – 44-13-100(a)(1)
$7,500 of compensation for future earnings needed for support – 44-13-100(a)(11)(E)
Health aids – 44-13-100(a)(10)
$10,000 of personal injury recoveries – 44-13-100(a)(11)(D)
Wrongful death recoveries needed for support – 44-13-100(a)(11)(B)
Alimony and child support necessary for support – 44-13-100(a)(2)(D)
Unemployment compensation, Social Security benefits, and public assistance – 44-13-100(a)(2)(A)
Worker’s compensation – 34-9-84
Veteran’s benefits – 44-13-100(a)(2)(B)
Old age assistance – 49-4-35
Aid to blind persons – 49-4-58
Aid to disabled persons – 49-4-84
Crime victims' compensation – 44-13-100(a)(11)(A)
75% of earned but unpaid weekly disposable earnings, or 40 times the state or federal hourly minimum wage, whichever is greater, for private & federal workers; bankruptcy judge may authorize more for low-income debtors – 18-4-20, 18-4-21
$1,500 of implements, books, & tools of trade – 44-13-100(a)(7)
$1,200 of any property – 44-13-100(a)(6)
Up to $10,000 of unused portion of homestead exemption – 44-13-100(a)(6), 44-13-1. (Learn more in The Georgia Wildcard Exemption in Bankruptcy.)
IRAs and ERISA-qualified benefits – 18-4-22
Employees of nonprofit corporations – 44-13-100(a)(2.1)(B)
Other pensions necessary for support – 44-13-100(a)(2.1)(C), (a)(2)(E), 18-4-22
IRA Payments necessary for support – 44-13-100(a)(2)(F)
Public employees retirement benefits – 44-13-100(a)(2.1)(A), 47-2-332
(Learn more about retirement plan accounts in bankruptcy.)
Group life insurance – 33-30-10
Life insurance proceeds – 33-25-11
Proceeds of life insurance policy when beneficiary is a dependent of the policy owner, to the extent necessary for support – 44-13-100(a)(11)(C)
Annuity & endowment contract benefits – 33-28-7
Disability or health benefits to $250 per month – 33-29-15
Fraternal benefit society benefits – 33-15-62
Proceeds and avails of industrial life insurance – 33-26-5
Unmatured life insurance contract – 44-13-100(a)(8)
Unmatured life insurance dividends, interest, loan value, or cash value to $2,000 if beneficiary is you or someone upon whom you depend – 44-13-100(a)(9)
Georgia, along with several other states, has an exemption scheme that applies only to bankruptcy and insolvent intestate estates (meaning you can’t use them against creditors that try to take your property outside of bankruptcy or intestacy). The law is split as to whether bankruptcy-only exemption schemes are constitutional. Some courts have held the law is constitutional, while others have held that it is not.
The majority of bankruptcy courts allow debtors to use bankruptcy-only exemption schemes, but you should consult with an attorney to determine what exemptions are permitted in your local bankruptcy court. (You can find a local bankruptcy attorney here.)
This list includes many of the commonly-used bankruptcy exemptions available in Georgia, but there are other exemptions available to protect your property. In addition, Georgia may have changed the amounts since this list was last reviewed in 2012.
The Georgia Code is copyrighted, so you won’t find it posted on the website of the Georgia Legislature. However, the Georgia Legislature website will refer you to the Georgia Code on LexisNexis, which you can visit at www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/gacode/Default.asp, to verify the current exemption amounts. Or you can visit a law library and see the Code there. (To learn how to do library or online research, see Nolo’s Legal Research Center).