Wisconsin Bankruptcy Exemptions


(Portions reprinted by permission from How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Nolo © 1989-2019 )

Wisconsin Bankrupcty Exemptions Summary

(details below...)

Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions Also Available
(see below)

Homestead

Property you occupy or intend to occupy to $75,000; sale proceeds exempt for 2 years if you intend to purchase another home (husband & wife's exemption may double)

  (more...)

Auto/Truck (aka Motor Vehicle)

Property you occupy or intend to occupy to $75,000; sale proceeds exempt for 2 years if you intend to purchase another home (husband & wife's exemption may double)

  (more...)

Personal Property

Property you occupy or intend to occupy to $75,000; sale proceeds exempt for 2 years if you intend to purchase another home (husband & wife's exemption may double)

   (more...)

Wild Card

Property you occupy or intend to occupy to $75,000; sale proceeds exempt for 2 years if you intend to purchase another home (husband & wife's exemption may double)

  (more...)

Wage Garnishment Law

Property you occupy or intend to occupy to $75,000; sale proceeds exempt for 2 years if you intend to purchase another home (husband & wife's exemption may double)

  (more...)

More Wisconsin Exemptions...

[Click here for more info & citations...]

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Homestead | Insurance | Misc | Retirement | Personal Property | Public Benefits | Tools of Trade | Wages | Wild Card |

Wisconsin Bankruptcy Exemptions

Wisconsin Offers a Choice of Federal or State Exemptions

Wisconsin law allows you to use the exemptions found in the U.S. bankruptcy code (11 U.S.C. § 522(d)) or the exemptions provided under Wisconsin law. However, you cannot mix and match exemptions from the federal bankruptcy code and state law. You must choose one system or the other.

However, if you use the state law exemptions, there are a few U.S. 'non-bankruptcy' exemptions (that is, exemptions that exist outside of federal bankruptcy code) that you can use in addition to your state law exemptions. The four most significant non-bankruptcy exemptions are for:

  • Wages (a general cap on what percentage of your wages can be garnished)
  • Social Security benefits
  • Civil Service benefits, and
  • Veterans Benefits

Other non-bankruptcy exemptions mostly deal with various benefits to government and military personnel, with a few odd laws regarding specially regulated labor markets such as railroad workers, merchant sailors, and longshoremen.

NOTE: Federal Exemption amounts listed below reflect the April 1, 2019 adjustment for inflation every three years, and therefore do not match the figures shown in the federal exemption statutes. Click here for the April 1, 2019 inflation adjustments to Federal bankruptcy exemption amounts, published in the Federal Register.

Special Notes regarding Wisconsin exemptions:

Wisconsin increased exemption amounts effective 12/15/2009 and eliminated the "marriage penalty" on the homestead exemption. Spouses may now double the homestead exemption. (SB 259, creating 2009 Act 80.)

Can you double exemptions for joint filers? (General principles)

If you are married and filing together, you and your spouse must use the same law; one cannot use federal law while the other uses state law. However, the exemption law chosen applies separately to each spouse. Thus, it is generally possible to double the amount of state law exemptions, Cheeseman v. Nachman, 656 F.2d 60 (4th Cir. 1981) (married couple filing a joint petition was entitled to double the Virginia homestead exemption), unless state law (e.g. California) specifically prohibits a couple from doubling certain exemptions. See First National Bank v. Norris, 701 F.2d 902 (11th Cir. 1984)(Alabama); Granger v. Watson, 754 F.2d 1490 (9th Cir. 1985)(California).

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

Citations and links to primary law and secondary sources are provided for those who wish to do further research. Every effort has been made to make this information up to date and accurate, but laws can and do change without notice. Persons relying on this information are responsible for confirming its timeliness and accuracy before relying on it. (This information was updated for April 2019.)

Also bear in mind that these brief summaries do not list every detail or exception to these exemptions. For example, there are often exceptions for collection of child support debt and/or taxes. These listings are designed to inform you of laws that exist for your benefit, so that you may exercise what rights you may have.

Finally, this website is intended to provide information only. It cannot answer whether your property does or does not qualify for a specific exemption.

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Wisconsin Homestead Exemption

Almost every state provides protection for equity in the family home, and many states have increased the amount of protection in recent years. Seven states offer unlimited protection. Most states are not as generous.

As of December 2009, joint filiing spouses may double the homestead exemption. (SB 259, creating 2009 Act 80.)

New Federal Residency Requirement

Under the new bankruptcy law, you must be have lived in the state for at least 40 months (three years and four months) before you can claim any homestead protection greater than $160,375. (If your state's exemption offers less than this amount, the law is irrelevant to you.) The law is poorly worded but seems to say that if you move from one home to another in the same state, you can claim that state's homestead protection.

IF you are moving to another state, OR you moved to Wisconsin within in the last two years, click here.


Special notes about Wisconsin Homestead Exemptions: As of December 2009, joint filiing spouses may double the homestead exemption. (SB 259, creating 2009 Act 80.)

Wisconsin Exemptions

Federal Exemptions

  • Real property, including co-op or mobile home, or burial plot to $25,150; unused portion of homestead to $12,575 may be applied to any property
    11 U.S.C. 522 (d)(1), (d)(5)

Home Valuation tool

Just add your street address to get an estimate of the value of your house, and all others in your neighborhood. (Note: Does not serve all areas, and valuations are imperfect estimates only.)

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Wisconsin Insurance exemptions

Virtually all states protect life insurance proceeds in some manner or another. Some restrict it to proceeds paid to a dependent. Many states also protect the cash-value or loan-value of insurance policies.

If a substantial amount of your assets are in life insurance, you may want to consult a professional to determine the extent to which those policies are exempt.

Wisconsin Exemptions

Federal Exemptions

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Miscellaneous other exemptions for Wisconsin

This category covers items like partnership property, alimony & support payments.

Wisconsin Exemptions

Federal Exemptions

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Wisconsin Pensions & Retirement Savings Exemptions

The new federal bankruptcy law now automatically exempts a virtually all tax-exempt pensions and retirement savings accounts from bankruptcy, even if you are using state law exemptions. 11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(C). (See Help Topic: Special Rules For Retirement Accounts.)

The law protects up to $1,283,025 of any pension or retirement fund that qualifies forspecial tax treatment under Internal Revenue Code sections 401,402, 403, 408, 408A, 414, 457, or 501(a).

Federal Exemptions

  • All types of retirement funds and accounts that tax-exempt under IRC section 401, 403, 408, 408A, 414, 457, or 501(a) ; IRAs & Roth IRAs limited to $1,362,800 (excluding rollover contributions); limitation can be overidden by judge.
    11 U.S.C. 522 (d)(12)
    11 U.S.C. 522 (n)

Wisconsin Exemptions

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Wisconsin Personal Property Exemptions

This category covers your car, your non-retirement bank accounts, and most of your other personal possessions, other than your house.

States vary widely on how generous they are in this area. Some exemptions may be for any combination of property up to an aggregate amount. Other exemptions apply only to specific items, such as jewelry.

Remember that an exemption will not protect your car from being repossessed by the holder of the car loan you used to purchase the vehicle if you pledged the vehicle as security for the loan. To keep the car, you will have to pursue other options such as 'redemption' or 'reaffirmation.' See the help topics and How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy for more on this.

Wisconsin Exemptions

Federal Exemptions

Auto Valuation Tools:

Both of these websites offer interactive tools to determine the current value of your used car.

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Wisconsin Public Benefits Exemptions

Most states exempt public benefits, consistent with the notion that such benefits are intended as a safety net for the recipient.

Wisconsin Exemptions

Federal Exemptions

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Wisconsin Tools of Trade Exemptions

These are the things you use to make a living. An automobile or truck can be a tool of trade if you use it as such. Commuting to work doesn't count, but if driving is a necessary component of transacting your business, you can claim your vehicle is a tool of trade.

Wisconsin Exemptions

Federal Exemptions

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Wisconsin Wage Garnishment Laws

Most states have a wage garnishment law. In some states, wage garnishment laws can be used in bankruptcy as an exemption to protect income that you had coming due, but not yet received, as of the day you filed, for work you had already done -- so called "earned but unpaid wages".

In some states, the wage garnishment law protects not only wages owed to you, but also wages already in your possession and saved over time preferably holding it in a separate bank account. In other states wage garnishment laws do not protect wages once they are they are in your possession.

Wisconsin Exemptions

Federal Exemptions

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Wisconsin Wild Card Exemption

Most, but not all, states allow a so-called "wild-card" exemption that can apply to any property. The wild card exemption can be of particular help if one or more of your other exemptions falls short of protecting your equity. You may split your wild card exemption amount over multiple items and stack it atop other exemptions as needed to protect exposed equity.

Wisconsin Exemptions

Federal Exemptions

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