If you file for bankruptcy in Tennessee, the Tennessee homestead exemption protects equity in your home. The amount that you can protect varies depending on your marital status, your age, and whether you have dependents. Read on to find specific information about the homestead exemption in Tennessee.
For information about how the homestead exemption works in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, see The Homestead Exemption in Bankruptcy. For more articles on exemptions, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area.
The Tennessee Homestead Exemption Amount
Under the Tennessee exemption system, homeowners may exempt up to $5,000 of their home or other property covered by the homestead exemption which is a principal place of residence. Joint owners of property, such as married couples, may claim up to $7,500 on property used as their principal place of residence.
An individual who has one or more minor children as dependents in the household may claim up to $25,000 on property owned by the individual and used as a principal place of residence.
An unmarried individual who is 62 years of age or older may claim up to $12,500 on property used as his or her principal place of residence. A married couple, one of whom is 62 years of age or older and the other is younger than 62 years may claim up to $20,000 on property used as their principal place of residence. A married couple, both of whom are 62 years of age or older may claim up to $25,000 on property used as their principal place of residence.
Doubling for Married Couples
Some states allow you to double the homestead exemption if you are married and filing for bankruptcy jointly. In Tennessee, the statute specifically provides that married couples can only claim up to $7,500. Thus, you cannot the double the original $5,000 to receive $10,000.
However, married couples in Tennessee are allowed to double the exemption if they have one or more dependent minor children under their custody. This means that a married couple with one or more children can claim up to $50,000 instead of $25,000 because each spouse receives the benefit of the exemption.
The Scope of the Tennessee Homestead Exemption
In Tennessee the homestead exemption applies to real property used as the debtor’s principal residence, which includes your home and condominium. Any interest in a family cemetery not larger than one acre, or a burial plot in a cemetery, or a space in a mausoleum is also protected.
The homestead exemption in Tennessee also applies to property held in a life estate as well as property held in a lease lasting for two to fifteen years.
Can You Use the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions in Tennessee?
Some states allow bankruptcy filers to use the federal bankruptcy exemptions instead of the state exemptions. Tennessee is not one of those states. If you reside in Tennessee you must use the state exemptions.
(To learn more about which state exemptions apply to you, see Which Exemptions Can You Use in Bankruptcy?)
In Tennessee the homestead exemption is automatic – you don’t have to file a homestead declaration in order to claim the homestead exemption in bankruptcy.
Real Property Held as Tenancy in the Entirety in Tennessee
If property is held as a tenancy in the entirety, it means the property is jointly owned by a married couple as a single marital entity, not as individuals.
In Tennessee, if property is held as tenancy by the entirety, the entire value of the property may be exempt against debts owed by only one spouse.
Homestead Exemption for a Surviving Spouse and Minor Children
In Tennessee, if a person dies and leaves a spouse or minor children, the deceased’s homestead exemption is transferred to the surviving spouse and minor children, without them having to pay the debts of the deceased before the transfer.
Finding the Tennessee Homestead Exemption Statute
Tennessee’s homestead exemption is found in Title 26, Chapter 3 of the Tennessee Code at §§ 26-3-101 through 26-3-117. To learn how to find state statutes, check out Nolo’s Laws and Legal Research area.
The Tennessee Government website provides an annotated version of the Tennessee Code at www.tn.gov/environment/permits/tcalink.shtml.