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|Exemptions Which Prevent Creditors From Taking Your Money or Property||
Last updated: August 2006
In Illinois, the law protects some of your income and property from collection by creditors. No one can force you to pay debts from money or property which is exempt. The exemption laws allow you to keep the basic necessities of life. This section identifies the money and property which the law says are protected against seizure by creditors. These exemptions give debtors very important rights. These are especially important when a creditor with a judgment against you tries to seize your property. It is important to know that a creditor cannot make you give up your exemption rights. A creditor may try to do this by putting it into a contract. Contract terms that say you are giving up your exemptions are illegal under federal law.
Exemption laws do not protect debtors when a creditor wants to take a piece of property which is under a security interest. This security interest is also called collateral. For example, a car may be collateral for a car loan. This means that if you are not able to pay the loan, the loaning company can take the car. This could not be stopped by exemption laws.
Some of your exemption rights are elsewhere. For information on how much of your paycheck is exempt see How Creditors Can Collect Court Judgments. For information on how much of your home is exempt see Judgment Liens and Enforcement of the Judgments Against Real Estate. This section focuses on your rights to exemption of personal property other than wages. Exempt property is property which is protected under the law from collection on a judgment or from attachment by creditors.
The following personal property is exempt from collection or attachment:
The following other forms of property are exempt from collection or attachment:
In addition to this list of exemptions, there may be other exemptions which you are entitled to under the law.
Money that comes from an exempt source remains exempt even when it is put into a bank account. For example, if you receive a monthly check from Social Security, you can deposit the money in the bank and it is still exempt. However, you need to be able to show that all of the money in the account is exempt in order to protect it. If the account has exempt and non-exempt money in it, the exempt money is more difficult to protect. If you keep your money in a bank, you should have a separate account for any money from exempt sources. Do not put non-exempt money into that account.
A creditor may try to you to pay a judgment using special collection tools like a Citation To Discover Assets or the garnishment process (See How Creditors Can Collect Court Judgments) . If a creditor uses special collection tools, you should talk to a lawyer. However, you may need to go to court to exercise your rights if the creditor tries to collect exempt money. Any notice you receive must tell you about your exemption rights. The notice also must tell you how to get a hearing. If the creditor does not send you notices, try to get the notice from the creditor's lawyer or from the court.
You typically can get a hearing by coming to court on the day that the notice says court will be held next in your case (called the "return date"). Ask the clerk to call your case. You can get a sooner date if you ask the Clerk of the Circuit Court in writing before the date on the citation or garnishment notice. The Clerk of the Circuit Court will give you a date and time to appear before a particular judge. The Clerk of the Circuit Court will also give you the necessary forms which you must prepare and send to the creditor and to any garnishee. These forms tell the creditor and garnishee when and where the hearing will be. The garnishee is the person, bank, or employer holding property which the creditor is trying to get. You may need to get to court sooner because your bank account has been frozen. This means the bank will not allow you to take any money out of your account.
At the hearing, tell the judge which property you believe is exempt. Bring any documents or other proof to support what you are saying. You should also tell the judge the reason why you believe the property is exempt.
If you received a Citation to Discover Assets, you were required to tell the creditor about your income and assets. You should tell the creditor which items you listed are exempt. You also should tell the creditor how you are going to use your $4,000 wildcard exemption. Do not allow the creditor or the creditor's attorney to present a turn-over order to the judge before you have had an opportunity to review that order. Tell the judge if it appears that the order seems to turn-over property which you have identified as exempt.
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