Generally, the answer is “yes.” If you own property free and clear, you keep it as long as it is exempt. The Georgia Code sets out what property you may declare as exempt. Generally, things like household goods, clothing, personal items, etc. are full exempt. You can read more about Georgia exemptions here.
Property that is particularly valuable like oil paintings, expensive exercise equipment, coin collections, or one-of-a-kind items may have a value that is more than what can be protected under the exemption rules. In such a case, you will have to either turn over the property to your trustee or offer to buy the trustee out of his interest in the non-exempt property.
If you have property subject to a lien, your choices are to surrender the collateral back to the secured creditor or you can reaffirm the debt, keep making payments and keep the property.
Reaffirmation only works when:
- your equity in the property falls within the permitted exemption;
- you are current or close to current with your loan payments;
- the secured creditor agrees to reaffirm
- you have enough disposable income in your budget to make the monthly payment
Generally, most secured creditors are happy to reaffirm as there is rarely much of a market for used furniture or appliances. In fact, secured creditors who have an interest in collateral like furniture, appliances, electronics or computer equipment are sometimes willing to negotiate a lower payment and/or a lower payoff. In a recent case, I was able to negotiate a lower balance – a $950 payoff from a $3,518 balance – where the collateral was a home computer.
Car lenders are less likely to agree to a negotiated payoff because there is an active market for used vehicles. However, if the loan balance on a vehicle is significantly higher than the value of the vehicle, you may have some room to negotiate.