Bankruptcy Exemptions: What I Can Keep

You lose no property in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, because you fund your repayment plan through your income. In Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you select property you are eligible to keep from a list of Illinois state exemptions. Although state exemption laws differ, states typically allow you to keep these types of property in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy:

  • Equity in your home, commonly called a homestead exemption. Under the Bankruptcy Code, in Illinois you can exempt up to $15,000 of equity for an individual and $30,000 of equity for joint filing spouses.
  • Insurance. Usually, you can keep the cash value of your policies and will not be required to cash in any whole life policies.
  • Retirement plans. Most retirement benefits are exempt in bankruptcy.
  • Personal property. You'll be able to keep most household goods, furniture, furnishings, clothing (other than furs), appliances, books and musical instruments up to a garage sale value of $4,000 per person.
  • Your car. You can keep a vehicle as long as your equity doesn't exceed several thousand dollars. Illinois gives you a "wild card" amount of money — $2,400 per vehicle — that you can apply toward any property.
  • Public benefits. All public benefits, such as welfare, Social Security and unemployment insurance, are fully protected.

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