Updated May 20, 2016
Like other states, Georgia has exemptions that you can use to protect the value of your belongings from creditors when you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Typically, you’ll be able to protect some amount of equity in your home and car, as well as household items and retirement accounts.
(Find out about more information you’ll need to prepare for bankruptcy in Filing for Bankruptcy in Georgia.)
Some states allow filers to choose between state and federal bankruptcy exemptions. Georgia isn’t one of those states. If you file bankruptcy in Georgia, you must use the Georgia state exemptions. However, you can supplement Georgia’s state exemptions with the federal non-bankruptcy exemptions and 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 for property that belongs to both of 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 estate or personal property, including a co-op, that you or your dependent uses as a residence. 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 can 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)
$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.
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). Some courts have held the law isn’t constitutional, although the majority of bankruptcy courts allow debtors to use bankruptcy-only exemption schemes. Consult with an attorney to determine what exemptions are permitted in your local bankruptcy court.
This list includes many of the commonly-used bankruptcy exemptions available in Georgia, but other exemptions are available to protect your property. Also, Georgia might have changed the amounts since this list was reviewed in 2016.
To find the Georgia Code, go the Georgia General Assembly website and select “Georgia Code” from the left navbar. You’ll be referred to the Georgia Code on LexisNexis. Or you can visit a law library and see the Code there.