If you have gone to court and have been granted a money judgment by the court against the person you are bringing a claim, there are various ways to collect the money. The person owing the money would be called the judgment debtor while you will be called the judgment creditor. One of the ways to collect this debt is from taking the money from the judgment debtor’s bank account such as their savings and checking accounts, money markets, mutual funds, loans, or credit union accounts.
If you can find your debtor’s bank account you have a good chance in collecting what you’re owed. This method is called garnishing or levying bank account.
How Do I Find Banks and Account Numbers?
To seize your debtor’s money or contents in a safe deposit box, you need the name of the bank, the branch, the exact name on the account and sometimes the account number. Here are some tips in tracking down your debtor’s bank details:
- Approach banks near your debtor: Most people use a bank that is relatively close to where they live or work. If your debtor is a small business that makes daily deposits, they are likely to use a bank near by. If your debtor works for a large company, a state institution or is a labor union, try to find out if there’s an affiliated credit union.
- Check your papers: If you have a copy of a check written by the debtor, you can easily find the bank and the account number.
- Write the debtor’s business a check: If the debtor is or has a business, you or someone else can buy something from the business with a check, and you will find out the debtor’s bank when they stamp deposit the check.
- Ask business associates of your debtor: Sometimes business associates of the debtor will share information with you.
How Do I Get Confirmation of the Bank Account Number?
Most banks are very concerned about the privacy of their costumers. However, sometimes if you’re lucky, bank representatives will help you confirm that your debtor has a bank account at that bank.
How Do I Get My Money If I’ve Found the Account?
It-s the finding of the account that is problematic. Once you’ve found the bank account you can go to the sheriff or other local official (called a "levying official") with the information about the debtor’s bank accounts. The levying official collects the money and gives it to you.
Are There Funds that are Exempt?
Some money in an account is protected from creditors. If you try to collect from an account it is up to the debtor to object in court and prove that the money came from an exempt source. Certain sources of cash are exempt, in part or in total: wages, public benefits, retirement plans, insurance proceeds. (link to: What are the legal limits in what I can collect). These are the some funds that may be exempt:
- Wages may be exempt under federal law
- Public benefits such as social security, welfare, unemployment, and workers compensation benefits are usually exempt from being garnished
- Retirement plans and benefits
- Insurance proceeds such as disability and health insurance prodeed
What Happens If the Account I’m Seizing Is a Joint Account?
There two different scenarios if the account is held by others besides your debtor:
- If you find an account that belongs to the debtor and his/her spouse, than the account can be levied. However, the spouse has a right to object.
- If the account is in the name of the debtor and someone else that is not his/her spouse, you may not take from the other person’s funds. You can usually assume that each account holder is entitled to an equal share of the account.
What Is the Process of a Bank Deposit Account Levy?
After you have found out the bank account number and the branch where the judgment debtor has deposit accounts, you may levy the funds in the account. To being this procedures, you must do the following:
- Request for a Writ of Execution and pay the fee with the clerk
- Once the clerk has processed the fee, take the original write to the Sheriff’s office and request a bank levy.
- Once the sheriff serves the levy, the bank account will be frozen and the account holder will be notified of the levy
- Pay the sheriff’s department fee for the procedure
Do I Get Reimbursed for the Cost I Incurred in Enforcing the Judgment?
Yes. A judgment creditor is entitled to recover certain costs that they incurred in enforcing the judgment. A judgment creditor may claim all the cost and fees spent on serving the judgment debtor and sometimes the judgment creditor can be entitled to 10% interest on the principal amount of the original judgment.