Bankruptcy Reform:

Use of the Homestead Exemption by Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Debtors in the Northern District of Texas and the Southern District of Florida

GGD-99-142R: Published: Jul 12, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 11, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the average and median amount of all homestead exemptions claimed by debtors in the Northern District of Texas and the Southern District of Florida, focusing on: (1) information on debtors' use of the homestead exemption in these two districts; and (2) data on the number of personal chapter 7 bankruptcy cases closed in calendar year 1998 in the remaining five districts in Texas and Florida.

GAO noted that: (1) both of these districts are located in states that permit debtors to claim a homestead exemption of an unlimited dollar amount; (2) GAO divided those debtors who claimed a homestead exemption into two groups--debtors who claimed homestead exemption of: (a) less than $100,000; and (b) at least $100,000 but not more than $500,000; (3) in GAO's sample, it found no debtors who claimed a homestead exemption of as much as $300,000; (4) there were virtually no empirical data on the percentage of debtors who claimed a homestead exemption in each district in calendar year 1998; (5) GAO discussed this issue with an official in the Executive Office for U.S. Trustees, court officials in each district, and a private panel trustee; and (6) although the estimates varied, each of these officials agreed that it was likely that a minority of chapter 7 debtors in each district had claimed a homestead exemption.

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