The Wisconsin Homestead Exemption
In Wisconsin, the homestead exemption allows you to protect $75,000 in equity in your home and $150,000 for married couples filing bankruptcy jointly.
In Wisconsin, the homestead exemption protects equity in your home -- up to $75,000 if you file individually and $150,000 if you file jointly with your spouse. Here you’ll find specific information about the homestead exemption in Wisconsin.
For information about how the homestead exemption works in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, see The Homestead Exemption in Bankruptcy. For more articles on exemptions, see our Bankruptcy Exemptions area.
The Wisconsin Homestead Exemption Amount
Under the Wisconsin exemption system, homeowners may exempt up to $75,000 of their home or other property covered by the homestead exemption.
Property surrounding the dwelling is also exempt and must be no less than 0.25 acres and no more than 40 acres.
Doubling for Married Couples
Wisconsin changed its law in 2009 and now if you and your spouse are filing a joint bankruptcy, you can double the homestead exemption and protect up to $150,000 of value in your home.
The Scope of the Wisconsin Homestead Exemption
In Wisconsin, the homestead exemption applies to real property, including your home, condominium, mobile or manufactured home, co-op, or unincorporated co-op.
You may protect property that you occupy or intend to occupy. If you leave the property temporarily, and intend to move back into it, you may still use the homestead exemption.
The homestead exemption also protects rental income, if you rent out a portion of your homestead, such as a room, in-law suite, or part of a duplex (Schwanz v. Teper, 66 Wis.2d 157 (1974), 223 N.W.2d 896). Additionally, if you sell your home and intend to purchase another home with the proceeds of the sale, you may use the exemption to protect that money for up to two years after the sale.
In Wisconsin, you may also use the homestead exemption to protect your residential lease or stock in a housing co-op.
Can You Use the Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, you can use either the state exemption system or the federal bankruptcy exemption system (but you can’t pick and choose different exemptions from each system – you have to use all state exemptions or all federal exemptions.)
The federal bankruptcy homestead exemption amount changes every three years. To find the current amount, see our article The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions. The exemption may be used for homes, condos, co-ops, mobile homes, and burial plots. Married couples may double this exemption. You can find the federal bankruptcy homestead exemption at 11 U.S.C. §522(d)(1) and (5).
(To learn more about which state exemptions apply to you, see Which Exemptions Can You Use in Bankruptcy?)
In Wisconsin, the homestead exemption is automatic – you don’t have to file a homestead declaration in order to claim the homestead exemption in bankruptcy.
The Wisconsin Homestead Exemption Outside of Bankruptcy
The Wisconsin Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 806.04) provides an additional means to protect your home, even if you do not file bankruptcy. If a judgment has been entered against you and the creditor attempts to collect by forcing a sale or filing a lien against your home, you can ask a court for a declaratory judgment, meaning an order stating that your home is protected up to the amount allowed by the homestead exemption. Creditors must comply with the court’s orders, including releasing any liens that may have already been recorded.
Finding the Wisconsin Homestead Exemption Statute
Wisconsin’s homestead exemption is found in the Wisconsin state statutes at Wis. Stat. Ann Section 815.20. To learn how to find state statutes, check out Nolo’s Laws and Legal Research area.
You can find the section of the Wisconsin statutes containing the homestead exemption at the website of the Wisconsin State Legislature at www.docs.legis.wi.gov/statutes.