Money and Property Exempt from Judgments

PrintPrint   EmailEmail   

Author: Revisions Contributed by Ashlee Highland, CARPLS
Last updated: May 2015

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. The purpose of the exemption law is to allow consumers to keep the basic necessities of life.

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: Your client;s equity interest, not to exceed $4,000 in value, in any other property.
    • The Wildcard Exemption is a stackable exemption. Your client can use the $4,000 wildcard to add exemption value to other personal property exemptions. For example, your client can add the wildcard exemption of $4,000 to the car exemption of $2,400 and have a car worth $2,400.
    • Only the equity interest in the property is counted towards the $4,000 limit. For example, If your client has a car worth $10,000 and she still owes $6,000 on the car, her equity interest is $4,000. She can use the car exemption of $2,400 and her wildcard exemption of $1,600 to protect the car.  
  • $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.

Real Property

  • 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.
  • If property is owned in tenancy by the entirety, the property is exempt if only one spouse is liable on the judgment.
  • Sale proceeds are exempt 1 year from the sale of the the homestead.
  • Exemption after death or desertion. The homestead exemption shall continue after the death of their spouse, so long as your client continues to occupy such homestead. It shall continue for children until the youngest child becomes 18 years of age. If the spouse deserts your client, the exemption shall continue in favor of the one occupying the premises as a residence.

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)
    • Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC), In re Royal, 397 B.R. 88 (Bankr. N.D. Ill. 2008); In re Brockhouse, 220 B.R. 623 (Bankr. C.D.Ill. 1998); In re Fish, 224 B.R. 82 (Bankr.S.D. ILL. 1998); In re Fish, 224 B.R. 82 (Bankr. S.D. Ill. 1998)
    • Child Tax Credit, In re Vasquez, No. 13-32174 (Bankr.N.D.Ill.2014).
  • Social Security
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Health or Disability Insurance from an insurance company or your client’s employer
  • 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 of a person who supported your client
  • Life Insurance payments payable to your client as a result of someone’s death to whom your client was dependent to the extent reasonably necessary for her support
  • Payment of up to $15,000 for personal injury to your client or an individual whom your client was a dependent

Exempt Wages: 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.

Printed from:


We welcome your comments and suggestions