A writ of execution happens when a court grants a plaintiff legal permission to collect a monetary judgment against a debtor. It often is preceded by a small claims court judgment. The court must, of course, rule in favor of the creditor for the judgment to be collected. Once the writ is issued, it sets off a series of events that leads to the goal of collecting money or property that is owed to a creditor. These collection methods are sanctioned by the court and can include seizing property and bank accounts.
A writ of execution can allow for repossessing an automobile, for example. In this case, it allows the property to be seized and sold to pay off the debt. Other examples include collection activities for failure to pay credit card bills, hospital bills or a judgment from an automobile accident. Often, writs of execution are aimed at bank accounts, and creditor’s money is simply frozen and then used to pay off the debt. Wages also can be garnished to collect the money.
Garnishment of bank accounts or wages are among the most popular ways of collecting the judgment. There generally are legal limits on the amount of money that can be withheld from a paycheck. Employers typically are served a written notice of the garnishment and then have a certain amount of time to begin withholding the money. Garnishing a bank account does not necessarily mean the amount will be collected in full, especially if the debtor holds a joint account with another person. In that case, the account might be exempt.
Other collection procedures can require the debtor to return to court to fully disclose assets and other information. Usually, a creditor will request this information if it is not already known. Information requested can include a list of all property owned, place of employment, other sources of income, driver’s license information and an identification number issued by the government. If a debtor does not comply with this or other court-ordered mandates or appearances, a warrant might be issued against the debtor for failing to appear in court or comply.
People who receive a writ of execution might be able to work out payments with the creditor, depending on the circumstances. Any repayment plan likely will be monitored and enforced by the court that issued the judgment. Once a writ of execution is issued, there is little recourse available to the debtor. In the case of dire financial circumstances, the debtor might consider bankruptcy or other legal options to stop it. These options should be discussed in depth with a qualified attorney.