Like all states, Wisconsin has its own set of exemptions that you may use when filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Exemptions determine what property (such as a home, car, instrument, retirement account, etc.) you may keep in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and how much you must pay to certain creditors in Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
In Wisconsin, you may use either the Wisconsin state exemptions (listed below), or the federal bankruptcy exemptions (you can find these in Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions). You cannot mix and match from each list. If you choose to use the Wisconsin state exemptions, you may also use any applicable amounts in the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.
Unless noted otherwise, if a couple is married and filing jointly in Wisconsin, each spouse may claim the full amount of each exemption. This is informally called “doubling.”
To learn more about bankruptcy exemptions, including how they work, which state exemption system you should use, and special rules for the homestead exemption, see Bankruptcy Exemptions – What Can I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy?
Wisconsin Bankruptcy Exemptions
Unless otherwise noted, all law references are to the Wisconsin Statutes Annotated.
815.20 - $40,000. Property you occupy or intend to occupy to $75,000; $150,000 for married couples filing jointly. Sale proceeds exempt for 2 years after sale provided you intend to acquire another home (spouses may not double).
14.64 - College savings account or tuition trust fund.
20.921 - Wages used to purchase savings bonds.
182.004 - Tenant's stock or lease interest in co-op housing up to homestead amount.
815.18 - Automobile up to $4,000 (plus any of the $12,000 personal property exemption that is unused); household goods and furnishings; wearing apparel, keepsakes, jewelry, appliances, books, musical instruments, firearms, sporting goods, animals or other items for family use up to $5,000 total; burial plot, monument, tombstone, etc.; bank deposits up to $5,000; wrongful death proceeds needed for support; personal injuries recoveries up to $50,000; fire and casualty proceeds for destroyed property that is exempt for 2 years of receipt; lost future earnings recoveries needed for support.
303.065 - Wages of inmates who are under a work-release plan.
303.08 - County jail prisoners' wages.
303.10 - County work camp prisoners' wages.
815.18 - 75% of net wages or 30 times the state or federal minimum wage, whichever is greater. Judge may approve more for low-income debtors.
11 U.S.C. § 522 - Tax exempt retirement accounts (including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, and defined benefit plans).
11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(C)(n) - IRAS and Roth IRAs to $1,171,150.
40.08 - Public employees.
62.63 - Certain municipal employees.
815.18 - Police officers and firefighters who work in a city greater than 100,000 people; military pensions; and public and private retirement benefits.
45.03 - Veterans' benefits.
108.13 - Unemployment compensation.
49.46 - Social service payments.
949.07 - Crime victims' compensation.
102.27 - Workers' compensation.
Tools of Trade
815.18 - Equipment, inventory, farm products, books, and tools of trade up to $15,000.
Alimony and Child Support
815.18 - Alimony and child support needed for support.
614.96 - Fraternal benefit society benefits.
632.42 - Life insurance proceeds if policy prohibits use to pay creditors.
815.18 - Unmatured life insurance contracts up to $4,000 in value in accrued dividends, interest or loan value (except for credit life contracts) if owned by debtor and insuring debtor, dependent, or person debtor is dependent upon; federal disability benefits; life insurance proceeds if debtor was dependent upon insured, to extent necessary to support debtor or family.
178.21 - Business partnership property.
Add any applicable Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions.
This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in Wisconsin. However, it may not include all exemptions, and states often create exceptions to specific exemptions. In addition, Wisconsin may have changed the amounts since this list was last updated in June of 2011. Consider cross-checking this list with www.legalconsumer.com, which updates the state exemption amounts regularly, or check with your local bankruptcy court.