On May 2, 2012, the homestead exemption was increased which brought the exemption for an individual filer to $21,500.00 and nearly in line with the federal homestead exemption. This was especially important to Georgia debtors who are not allowed to use the federal exemption as an alternative to the Georgia exemption. In the nearby state of South Carolina, however, individual debtors can claim an exemption of $56,150.00; married couples filing jointly can claim $112,275.00. South Carolina also provides a generous exemption for vehicles and household goods. Florida allows an unlimited dollar amount exemption for homesteads so long as the homestead does not exceed a one-half acre within a municipality or 160 acres outside of a municipality, but only $1000.00 to shield and protect a motor vehicle. Presently, in an economy with substantially undervalued and “underwater” residences in Georgia, it appears unlikely that the legislature will soon increase the homestead exemption.
As regular visitors to our blog site are aware, exemptions shield and protect any equity you may have in your property when you file bankruptcy. Since May, 2012, as an unmarried person filing an individual bankruptcy case, you can claim up to $21,500.00 to protect your residence from the trustee and your creditors. Married debtors who are jointly-titled on the residence and jointly file bankruptcy can “double down” and claim an exemption of $43,000.00. In the event you are married, but only you are on the title to the residence, and you file individually, you may claim the exemption up to $43,000.00 in order to protect the “interest” of your spouse. It appears that this particular provision in the bankruptcy exemption was the result of the experience the legislators who drafted the bankruptcy exemption had with decisions issued by judges in divorce cases in Georgia. Since the interest of a non-filing spouse who is jointly-titled on the residence is already a matter of record, when the other spouse files individually, it is unnecessary for the non-filing spouse to be protected by the exemption.
Always remember: Your role in the process is to fully disclose all you own and all you owe in order that your attorney can sort out the facts. It is the role of your attorney to tell you which exemptions apply in your case.