If you owe a debt that you haven’t paid, the creditor to whom you owe money has the right to take legal action against you. If you do not defend yourself in such a lawsuit or lose the case, the judgment creditor has several available options to take money and property to satisfy the debt. If you have a judgment against you, learn more about the types of property you can protect and which property may be in danger.
A judgment creditor can seek a writ of execution which allows the creditor to seize money held in personal checking or savings account. The creditor can file such a writ with your bank, who will automatically take out enough money to pay off the debt. If you do not have enough money to pay the debt in full, the judgment creditor may be able to take all of the money held in your accounts.
In addition, the judgment creditor can ask the court to file a garnishment against your wages that will allow the creditor to take money out of your paycheck until the debt is paid. However, 75% of your income after taxes is protected from garnishment in California.
Once the court has issued a writ of execution allowing a creditor to garnish your wages or bank account(s), the sheriff will serve the writ on your employer or banking institution and the garnishment will take effect immediately.
A judgment creditor also has the right to ask the local sheriff’s department to seize your personal property and vehicle. In California, every person can protect up to $6,075 in personal property, aside from your vehicle, from seizure for a debt. If you own a car, up to $2,300 of equity will be protected from judgment creditors. If you own more than $8,375 of aggregate equity in personal property and a vehicle, any remaining equity you own may be seized.
However, be advised that if your debt or judgment pertains to a particular item of property, this property can be repossessed with or without a judgment, depending on the terms of the contract for sale or purchase of the item.
One thing a judgment creditor cannot take outright is your home. If the equity that you own in the property is $75,000 or less, or $100,000 if you are married and your spouse does not also claim a homestead, your home will be protected. There are increased or added protections for the elderly and disabled ($175,000).
Help Protecting Your Property
Even though judgment creditors have the ability to seize a wide variety of property to pay off a debt, their rights to seizures are not absolute. If you owe money to a judgment creditor, you can still protect much of your income and property if you act quickly.
If you are behind on paying your bills or already have a judgment entered against you, you need the help of an experienced debtor rights attorney—like those at Fitzgerald Campbell—to review your case and discuss your options with you. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing clients in all types of debtor defense cases and we are here to help you!