If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Wisconsin, you can protect some or all of your property with Wisconsin’s bankruptcy exemptions. The bankruptcy exemptions in Wisconsin also play a role in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Read on to learn about what property is covered by Wisconsin’s bankruptcy exemptions.
For a general overview of bankruptcy exemptions, visit the Bankruptcy Exemption topic page.
Wisconsin Debtors May Choose Between Federal and State Exemptions
Wisconsin is one of the few states that allow debtors to choose between state and the federal bankruptcy exemptions. This means that bankruptcy filers may examine both sets of exemptions and elect the exemptions that better protect their assets.
Married Couples May Double Wisconsin Exemptions
Married couples filing a joint bankruptcy in Wisconsin may “double” the exemption amount (assuming they each have an ownership interest in the property).
Common Wisconsin Exemptions
Here are some of the most common exemptions available under Wisconsin law:
Alimony and Child Support
Alimony and child support needed for support. 815.18(3)(c)
Savings accounts are exempt up to $1,000. Wisc. Stat. Ann. § 815.18.
Cemeteries and Burial Property
Tombstones, coffins, cemetery lots owned by individuals, and other burial articles are exempt. Wisc. Stat. Ann. § 815.18.
Crime Victims’ Compensation
Crime victims’ compensation is 100% exempt. Wisc. Stat. Ann. § 949.07.
Fraternal Benefit Society Benefits
Fraternal benefit society benefits are 100% exempt. Wisc. Stat. Ann. § 614.96.
Homestead or Residential Property
Up to $75,000 in your home; $150,000 for married couples filing jointly. Sale proceeds exempt for up to two years if you intend to purchase another home (spouses may not double). Wisc. Stat. Ann. § 815.20.
For more details about how the homestead exemption works in Wisconsin, see The Wisconsin Homestead Exemption.
Federal disability benefits and fire insurance proceeds are 100% exempt. Accident insurance proceeds are 100% exempt. Unmatured life insurance and annuity contracts are exempt. Dividends from unmatured life insurance and annuity contracts are exempt up to $150,000 (but only up to $4,000 if issued less than 2 years prior to filing). Life insurance payments are 100% exempt. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18.
Up to $4,000 in motor vehicles; unused portion of $12,000 personal property exemption may be added. Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 344.37 and 815.18
To learn more, visit The Wisconsin Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy.
Wisconsin has adopted the Uniform Partnership Act provision exempting a partner’s interest in specific partnership property. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 178.21.
Pension and Retirement Benefits
Pensions are exempt for certain municipal employees, certain firefighters and police officers, military personnel, and public employees. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18.
Tax exempt retirement accounts (such as 401ks and IRAs) are exempt as per the federal rules. For current amounts, see Your Retirement Plan in Bankruptcy.
A debtor may exempt up to $12,000 in the aggregate value of any household goods and furnishings, wearing apparel, keepsakes, jewelry and other articles of personal adornment, appliances, books, musical instruments, firearms, sporting goods, animals, or other tangible personal property held primarily for the personal, family or household use of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor.
Personal injury recoveries to $50,000. Wrongful death recoveries needed for support.
A debtor may also exempt any money paid toward tuition or college savings funds.
Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18.
Social service payments. 49.96
Wages earned during imprisonment are 100% exempt. Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 303.065, 303.08 and 303.10.
A debtor may exempt up to $15,000 in tools, equipment, inventory, farm products, and professional books. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18.
Unemployment compensation is exempt except for child support claims. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 108.13.
Veterans’ war pension benefits are 100% exempt. Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 45.35(8) and 815.18.
A debtor may exempt 75% of his or net weekly income, limited to the extent reasonably necessary, but not less than 30 times the greater of state or federal minimum wage. Wis. Stat. Ann. §§ 20.921(1) and 815.18.
(Learn more about wage exemptions in Wisconsin.)
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation is 100% exempt. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 102.27.
Confirming the Status of Wisconsin’s Bankruptcy Exemptions
Wisconsin’s exemption amounts are adjusted periodically. To make sure you have the most recent figures, be sure to check for any updates at the official website of the Wisconsin State Legislature:http://legis.wisconsin.gov/Pages/default.aspx.
For additional information on how to research and find the latest exemption amounts, see our Legal Research Center.