Wisconsin Bankruptcy Exemptions

Find out what property you can protect in bankruptcy with Wisconsin's bankruptcy exemptions.

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. Wis. Stat. Ann. 815.18(3)(c).

Bank Deposits

Deposit accounts are exempt up to $5,000. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18(3)(k).

Cemeteries and Burial Property

Tombstones, coffins, cemetery lots owned by individuals, and other burial articles are exempt. Wis. Stat. Ann.   § 815.18(3)(a).

Crime Victims’ Compensation

Crime victims’ compensation is 100% exempt. Wis. Stat. Ann.   § 949.07.

Fraternal Benefit Society Benefits

Fraternal benefit society benefits are 100% exempt. Wis. 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). Wis. Stat. Ann.   § 815.20.

For more details about how the homestead exemption works in Wisconsin, see  The Wisconsin Homestead Exemption.

Insurance Benefits

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(i)-(f).

Motor Vehicles

Up to $4,000 in motor vehicles; unused portion of $12,000 personal property exemption may be added. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18(3)(g).

To learn more, visit  The Wisconsin Motor Vehicle Exemption in Bankruptcy.

Pension and Retirement Benefits

War pensions (including veterans' benefits). Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18(3)(n). Pensions are exempt for certain municipal employees, certain firefighters and police officers working in cities of more than 100,000 residents. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18(3)(ef). Public employees. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 40.08.

Tax exempt retirement accounts (such as 401ks and IRAs) are exempt as per the federal rules and Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18(3)(j). For current amounts, see Your Retirement Plan in Bankruptcy.

Personal Property

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. Wis. Stat. § 815.18(3)(d).

Personal injury recoveries to $50,000. Wrongful death recoveries needed for support. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18(3)(i)(1)(c).

A debtor may also exempt any money paid into a college savings account or trust fund. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18(3)(o),(p).

Public Benefits

Social service payments. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 49.96.

Prisoner Property

Wages earned during imprisonment are 100% exempt. Wis. Stat. Ann. § § 303.065(4)(b), 303.08(3), and 303.10(7).

Trade Implements and Family Business

A debtor may exempt up to $15,000 in tools, equipment, inventory, farm products, and professional books, or in a closely-held business. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18(3)(b).

Unemployment Compensation

Unemployment compensation is exempt except for child support claims. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 108.13.

Veterans’ Benefits

Veterans’ war pension benefits are 100% exempt. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 815.18(3)(n).


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. § 815.18(3)(h).

(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.


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