Money and Property Exempt from Judgments

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Author: Revisions Contributed by Ashlee Highland, CARPLS
Last updated: December 2011

Money and Property that Cannot Be Taken to Satisfy a Judgment

Illinois and Federal laws place limits on the collection of a judgment. Exempt money or property cannot be taken from your client for payment of a debt. Your client can be sued and a judgment entered against them, but if their money or property comes from any of the sources listed below, that money or property cannot legally be taken from them to pay the judgment.

Tell the judge or creditor’s attorney that your client's income or property is exempt. However, keep in mind that if your client previously agreed in court to make payments, they may have given up your exemption rights.

Exemptions may not apply to debts owed for taxes, child support, alimony or fines.

List of Exemptions

Personal Property Exemptions

  • For each family member, necessary clothing, a bible, school books, and family pictures;
  • One motor vehicle in which interest does not exceed $2,400;
  • Wildcard Exemption: The exemption is $4,000 worth of property, including money in a bank account. The Wildcard Exemption is a stackable exemption. For example, you can add your wildcard exemption of $4,000 to your car exemption and have a car worth $2,400; 
  • $1,500 worth of implements, professional books or tools for a trade;
  • Health aids prescribed by a physician;  
  • Money from the sale of exempt property.  HOWEVER, the property is not exempt if the property was purchased with the intent of converting non-exempt property into exempt property or with the intent to defraud creditors.
  • Homestead Exemption: $15,000 of equity in a house, mobile home, condominium, building or lot of land occupied as a residence by the debtor is exempt. Each couple who jointly owns a home would have a $30,000 homestead exemption since each could exempt $15,000.

Income Exemptions

  • Public Aid and General Assistance:
    • Aid to the Aged, Blind or Disabled (AABD)
    • Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TANF)
    • General Assistance (GA)
  • Social Security
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Veteran's Administration Benefits (all V.A. benefits are exempt, except benefits subject to specific claims by the United States government)
  • Worker's Compensation
  • Black Lung Benefits
  • Unemployment Compensation
  • Alimony, Support and Maintenance (exempt only to the extent that they are needed for personal support and the support of dependents) 
  • Pension (exempt only to the extent that they are needed for personal support and the support of dependents)


The following payments are exempt:

  • Crime Victim's Award
  • Wrongful Death Award or Life Insurance payments of a person on whom you are dependent to the extent reasonably necessary for your support
  • Payment of up to $7,500 for personal injury to you or your dependent

85% of Gross Weekly Wages

Wages cannot be garnished unless take home pay after taxes is more than $371.25 per week (45 times the minimum wage). If take home pay is more than $371.25, the most that can be garnished is 15% of weekly gross pay.

This information is based on laws, which can be found in chapter 735 of the Illinois Compiled Statutes, at sections 5/12-803, 5/12-901, and 5/12-1001.

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