The Tennessee Homestead Exemption

The Tennessee homestead exemption protects some of your home equity if you file for bankruptcy. Learn more.

Most people want to know whether they can keep valuable property before filing for bankruptcy—especially a home. If you qualify to use the Tennessee homestead exemption, you can protect some or all of the equity in your house. In this article, we explain:

  • how much the Tennessee homestead exemption will cover, and
  • how to apply it in your bankruptcy case.

For more bankruptcy information, read Filing for Bankruptcy in Tennessee. Not only will you find answers, but it includes helpful checklists and a link to an interactive bankruptcy quiz. Or, try the start-to-finish bankruptcy guide, What You Need to Know to File for Bankruptcy.

Homestead Exemptions Available in a Tennessee Bankruptcy

In Tennessee, you'll have to use Tennessee's state exemptions, but you can supplement Tennessee's state exemptions with the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions. And you'll be able to increase your exemption if you're married, have a dependent, or you're over 62 years old.

Find out about filing considerations for spouses.

Tennessee Homestead Exemptions

Homestead exemption amount

$5,000

Can spouses who file a joint bankruptcy double the exemption?

  • $7,500 for co-owning spouses filing jointly
  • $25,000 for a filer with a minor dependent child in the household
  • $12,500 for an individual 62 years of age or older
  • $20,000 if one spouse is older than 62 and the other is younger, and
  • $25,000 if both spouses are 62 years old or older.

Homestead exemption law

Tenn. Code Ann. § 26-2-301

Other information

Amounts subject to change.

Where to find other exemptions

Tennessee Bankruptcy Exemptions

Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions

Property Protected by the Tennessee Homestead Exemption

In Tennessee, the homestead exemption applies to real and personal property serving as your principal place of residence, which includes your home and condominium. Any interest in a family cemetery not larger than one acre, a burial plot in a cemetery, or a space in a mausoleum is also protected. See the chart above for spousal, dependent, and age-related exemption increases.

If you hold property as tenancy by entirety with your spouse: If one spouse files for bankruptcy—not both—the bankruptcy trustee might be prevented from using the property equity to pay off debts. However, this is a tricky area of law. Talk with a local bankruptcy attorney before filing to ensure that you don't lose valuable property.

Here's an additional benefit: In Tennessee, if a person dies leaving a spouse or dependent children, the deceased's homestead exemption can be transferred to the survivors. The survivors don't have to use that amount to pay the deceased's debts.

Timing Your Tennessee Bankruptcy

You can file for bankruptcy in Tennessee after living there for more than 180 days. However, you must live in Tennessee much longer before using Tennessee exemptions—at least 730 days before filing, to be exact. Otherwise, you'd use the previous state's exemptions.

But suppose you lived in multiple states during the two years before filing for bankruptcy. In that case, you'd use the exemptions of the state you lived in for most of the 180 days before the two-year period that immediately preceded your filing. (11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(A).) Learn more about filing for bankruptcy after moving to a new state.

Claiming the Tennessee Bankruptcy Homestead Exemption

In Tennessee, the homestead exemption is automatic – you don't have to file a homestead declaration with the recorder's office to claim the homestead exemption in bankruptcy. Instead, when filing for bankruptcy, you'll list your homestead exemption on Schedule C: The Property You Claim as Exempt when completing your bankruptcy forms. You can find out about other requirements you'll need to meet in Your Home in Chapter 7 or Your Home in Chapter 13.

Finding the Tennessee Bankruptcy Homestead Exemption Statute

You'll find the homestead exemption in the Tennessee Code at Tenn. Code Ann. § 26-2-301 or consult with a local bankruptcy lawyer. Learn about finding state statutes in Laws and Legal Research.

Need More Help?

You might not know this, but Nolo has been making the law easy for DIYers for over fifty years. If you have questions, use the links we've included throughout for more details. Otherwise, you'll find the answers to almost all of your bankruptcy questions at nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/bankruptcy or by consulting with a local bankruptcy lawyer.

This overview cannot provide all of the information you'll need to file a bankruptcy case. For more detailed information, consider buying a self-help book such as How to File Chapter 7 Bankruptcy by Attorney Cara O'Neill and Albin Renauer J.D.

Updated July 20, 2021

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