Seizures of Bank Accounts and Bank Assets

Where You Need a Lawyer:

(This may not be the same place you live)

At No Cost! 

 What Are Seizures of Bank Accounts and Bank Assets?

A bank account seizure occurs when a creditor gets a court judgment against you for a debt you owe and then executes that judgment. This action allows the creditor to take funds directly from your bank account. The creditor may be able to take the full amount of the debt you owe directly from your bank account, which is a legal action based on the court judgment.

Bank garnishment is a form of account seizure. It’s a legal process that allows a creditor to remove funds from your bank account to repay a debt you owe. The creditor must first obtain a court order, and once they do, they can instruct your bank to turn over funds from your account to satisfy the debt.

What Are Exempt Funds?

Exempt funds are monies that are protected under federal or state law from being seized or garnished by creditors. Exempt funds often include things like Social Security benefits, disability benefits, veteran’s benefits, unemployment insurance, workers compensation, certain types of public assistance, and retirement income.

In general, exempt funds are exempt from debt collection. This means that even if a creditor has a judgment against you and is seeking to garnish your bank account, they cannot take these types of exempt funds. However, it is important to note that this is a general rule, and there can be exceptions depending on the specifics of the law in your jurisdiction and the nature of the debt. For instance, certain types of government debts like taxes and student loans can sometimes be collected from normally exempt funds.

What Happens When Your Bank Account and Assets Are Seized?

When your bank account and assets are seized, the impact can be substantial.

Firstly, this could result in significant financial hardship, especially if the seized funds were intended for essential expenses like rent, utilities, or groceries. It can also impact your credit score negatively.

Regarding pension and retirement plans, federal law often provides substantial protections. Many pension benefits and retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, are often considered exempt assets under federal law. However, this can depend on the type of debt. For example, the IRS may be able to seize retirement accounts for unpaid taxes.

Awards from personal injury claims could also potentially be seized. Some states protect personal injury awards as exempt, while others do not.

What if My Funds Have Been Frozen?

If you have a frozen bank account, the first step is to identify the reason why. A bank account can be frozen for a variety of reasons, including suspicious activity, unpaid debts, or legal judgments against you. Once you know the cause, you can begin to address it.

You may need to contact the bank to get information on why the account was frozen. If it’s due to a court judgment or garnishment order, you may need to contact the creditor or the court to discuss your options. If exempt funds have been frozen, you’ll need to provide the bank with documentation proving the source of these funds.

How Do I Protect My Bank Accounts and Assets From Seizure?

Protecting your assets starts with good financial habits. Paying your debts on time and maintaining good credit can prevent situations that lead to asset seizure. However, if you find yourself in a situation where a creditor is threatening to seize your bank account or assets, there are a few steps you can take.

1. Negotiate with the Creditor

If a creditor is threatening to seize your bank account or assets, direct communication can sometimes resolve the issue. If you owe the debt, you can often negotiate a new payment plan that suits your financial situation better or potentially even a settlement for less than the full amount of the debt. The creditor may prefer this to seizing your bank account, as it guarantees them a steady payment stream and avoids the legal hassle of a seizure.

2. Seek Legal Advice

The law surrounding asset seizure can be complex, and creditors often have more knowledge and resources than individual debtors. Therefore, consulting with a lawyer can help level the playing field. A lawyer can help you understand your rights, advise you on communicating with creditors, and potentially find legal strategies to protect your assets. For example, a lawyer may be able to help you argue that a debt is not valid, that a judgment was obtained improperly, or that certain funds are exempt from seizure.

3. Set Up Exempt Accounts

If you receive funds that are exempt from seizure (like social security, disability, or certain types of retirement income), setting up a separate bank account for these funds can make it easier to protect them. In some cases, a bank may automatically protect exempt funds from seizure, but in other cases, you may need to go to court to prove that the funds are exempt. Having these funds in a separate account can make this process easier.

However, be aware that there are rules about “commingling” exempt and non-exempt funds, meaning that if you mix exempt funds with other types of funds in the same account, you may lose the exemption. A lawyer can help you understand these rules and set up your accounts properly.

4. Asset Protection Planning

This is a more advanced strategy that involves setting up legal structures (like trusts) to protect your assets. For example, you might set up an irrevocable trust and transfer ownership of certain assets to the trust. Once an irrevocable trust owns an asset, it generally cannot be seized by creditors.

However, asset protection planning is a complex field that typically requires the help of an attorney, and there are many legal and practical considerations to take into account. For instance, there are “fraudulent transfer” laws that can make it illegal to transfer assets with the intent to defraud creditors. A good asset protection plan needs to be carefully designed to be legal and effective.

5. Child Support, Alimony, and Student Loans

In terms of child support and alimony, and student loans, these types of debts often have special rules. Past-due child support and alimony can often be collected even from typically exempt funds, and while it’s less common for student loan lenders to seize bank accounts, it can happen in some cases. If you owe these types of debts, it’s especially important to stay on top of payments and to seek legal advice if you’re having trouble.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Seized Bank Accounts and Assets?

If your bank account or assets have been seized, or if you believe they’re at risk of being seized, it’s a good idea to get legal help. This can be a complex area of law, and a collections lawyer can help you understand your rights, negotiate with creditors, and potentially find ways to protect your assets.

LegalMatch is a great platform to connect with a lawyer who can help. We offer a wide range of legal services, and our platform can match you with a collections lawyer who is right for your situation. Reach out to a lawyer today to get the help you need.


16 people have successfully posted their cases

Find a Lawyer