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What property is eligible for exemption in bankruptcy?

Wisconsinites who are experiencing financial struggles and are considering filing for bankruptcy will often pause when they think about the possibility of losing various properties and assets. This can leave them in limbo without the ability to pay their debts, but with a fear of moving forward with a bankruptcy. However, knowing the basic bankruptcy exemptions under state law can provide comfort to those who are reluctant, giving them the knowledge as to what properties are protected.

Provisions made for burial are exempt. This includes cemetery lots, monuments, tombstones, coffins, cremations urns and other items linked to burial. So are business and farm property such as equipment, inventory, farm products and professional books that are used for the business of the debtor or a debtor dependent are exempt as long as they are not worth more than $15,000. Family payments are common worry as to whether they are exempt or not. Fortunately, child support, family support and maintenance are exempt to a reasonably necessary level for the support of those who are receiving the payments. Consumer goods like clothes, furnishings, household items, jewelry and other personal items are exempt if they are for the debtor's personal use and the value does not exceed $12,000.

Disability insurance benefits is exempt. Fire and casualty insurance will be exempt for two years after it has been received if exempt property was destroyed. Funds for fire and police pensions are exempt for departments with populations that exceed 100,000 people. Fire engines and equipment used for these purposes are exempt. Life insurance and annuities are exempt, but this is contingent on date of execution, its value and when it was issued. There is a car exemption provided the value of the vehicle does not exceed $4,000. 75 percent of the net income for one week is exempt so the debtor and dependents can be reasonably supported. Life insurance, personal injury and wrongful death claims are exempt depending on several factors such as the amount and whether the life insurance was to support the debtor and the dependents. Retirement benefits are exempt provided they fall within the legal requirements.

Since there are so many different items, assets, accounts and policies that are eligible to be exempt when filing for bankruptcy, it can be difficult to understand exactly what might be protected and what is not. For example, there are numerous subsets when it comes to retirement benefits and its limits. This is why those who are having financial difficulty need to understand what is eligible for exemption with assistance from a qualified lawyer.

Source: docs.legis.wisconsin.gov, "815.18 Property exempt from execution. (3) Exempt Property.," accessed on March 7, 2017

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