If you've recently been awarded a judgment against someone who owes you money, you may assume the major battle is over. However, unless you're dealing with a debtor who has a fairly well-stocked bank account, you could find yourself spinning your wheels when trying to collect the funds to which you're entitled. How can you help track down a debtor's assets when he or she is unwilling to cooperate? Read on to learn more about the process of satisfying a legal judgment.
What happens after a judgment is awarded?
After you've received a judgment awarding you a certain amount in funds, you'll then need to execute the judgment in order to receive your money. The execution process turns the final order from a passive document into an actionable one, allowing you to garnish wages, freeze bank accounts, and order automatic transfers -- often without the debtor's express permission. However, to do this, you'll first need to track down the specific entities that hold funds in the debtor's name. With more and more Americans going "unbanked," this can sometimes be a challenge.
By filing a motion called a "proceedings supplemental" with the court that awarded you the monetary judgment, you'll be able to legally request information from the debtor regarding account balances, bank names and addresses, and information on other assets that could be liquidated to pay this judgment. If the debtor fails to provide timely or accurate information upon your request, you may be able to petition the court to hold him or her in contempt, requiring the payment of a fine or even jail time for noncompliance.
How can you gain access to your debtor's accounts?
If the debtor submits a timely response to your proceedings supplemental request and indicates there are sufficient funds to satisfy the judgment in one or more bank accounts, you'll need only to provide a copy of the final judgment to the bank in order to receive a check or account transfer.
However, if your debtor doesn't have easily accessible funds -- or if he or she fails to comply with your request and provide any information at all -- you may need to take advantage of some additional asset tracing services to determine the best way to satisfy your judgment.
By paying a small access fee, you'll be able to use the debtor's personal information to run the equivalent of a credit report. This report will show the existence of any accounts that report to the IRS (like investment or brokerage accounts), as well as bank accounts, pension funds, and even Social Security. Doing this will allow you to determine whether there are any accessible accounts that can be used to partially or fully satisfy the judgment you've received.
If it seems clear your debtor has no liquid property, you may be able to place a lien on other assets. This ensures that when your debtor sells his or her home, car, or other property, you'll be in line to receive your judgment funds before other debts are paid. And that you can skip tracing services for collections.