Whether you get to keep you car when you file Chapter 7 in Georgia depends on a number of factors:
- How much equity do you have in your car?
- Are you filing bankruptcy alone or jointly with a spouse?
- Must you (or you and your spouse) use your “wildcard” exemption to protect some other asset?
- Must you (or you and your spouse) use your entire homestead exemption?
Georgia has a motor vehicle exemption of $3,500.00. If the amount of equity you have in your car is $3,500.00 or less, then the trustee in a Chapter 7 case may not sell it to pay your creditors. You can find out the amount of equity you have in your car by subtracting what you owe from the value of the car.
If you file a joint case with your spouse and you are jointly-titled on a vehicle, the exemption on the vehicle can double to $7,000.00. Also, as discussed more specifically on our blog site published on February 7, 2013, the Homestead Exemption for an individual is $21,500.00; for joint filers $43,500.00.
Georgia has a wildcard exemption of $600.00 that may be used to shield and protect any asset worth $600.00 or less from your trustee during a bankruptcy proceeding. Again, you can double that amount if you file bankruptcy jointly with a spouse. If you file as an individual, you may add up to $5,000.00 of your homestead exemption to your wildcard exemption if you rent rather than own your home or if you have $16,500.00 or less equity in your home. This can increase your wildcard exemption to a total of $5,600.00 or to $11,200.00 if you are filing jointly with a spouse. As a result, it may be possible to “stack” the dollar amounts used to shield and protect the equity in a vehicle to $9,100.00 as an individual filer and to $18,200.00 if filing jointly.
Consult with one of our attorneys to discuss how the available exemptions can be allocated to maximize the protection of your vehicles as well as your other assets.