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Assets Searching for Debt Collecting & Judgment Recovery

by Joe Hoover
 
 

Q: Why do an assets search before seeking a judgment?

A: To determine if there's anything worth going after.
Conduct an assets search before suing. Make sure assets will be available, should you win a judgment. If the person doesn't have anything, why waste your time and money in court. Find out what you can attach and make stick - uncontested, lien-free - once you've obtained the judgment.

Some other reasons to conduct an asset search:

  • To learn about a person's wages & income: these "assets" can be "attached" or "garnished"
  • Before filing for divorce, learn exactly what property and possessions are owned and by whom
  • If considering investing in a start-up or joint venture, a merger; taking on an investor

Judgments

You win a judgment in court, and naturally, you want to collect.  If you run into difficulty collecting the court-ordered sum, consider conducting an assets search to gather intelligence.

First: Ascertain what possessions and income the individual has.  Make sure the person has property. Check the County Registrar of Deeds and the County Appraiser's office.

Know this: The court will not seek to ascertain what properties and possessions are owned by the defendant in order to collect on a judgment. Once determined though, the court will issue an order to the defendant to relinquish the property or possessions and/or order sheriff's deputies or constables to grab stuff for you.

Q: Can you get bank accounts? (Note: This is the #1 question asked of information providers by a generally well-informed public and from lawyers to corporate executives to regular people.)

A: Two ways to get bank & financial account information:

  • Prosecuting attorney gets a subpoena ordering defendant to appear at a hearing and provide three months of statements from all bank and financial accounts.
  • UCC filings often reveal the name of the bank that financed business loan.  (Note: The collateral put up by borrowers is often subject to judgment debt collection.
Order an Asset Search. Experienced database search specialists will immediately go to work for you, to quickly return real, meaningful results. See our Sample Report

Locating Assets

Your objective in this search is to find bank accounts or something to attach, like a vehicle, or real property.  If defendant has homestead exemption on the house, you will not be able to touch it.
  • An individual's personal property includes everything he or she owns.
  • Assets are either personal property or real property.
  • They are classed as either "tangible" or "intangible."

Tangible Personal Property

These are things like vehicles, equipment, inventory, phone systems, computers, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, paid-up insurance policies - items of value a person buys or comes into possession of by one means or another.  "Ownership" of an item is usually determined by "possession".

Intangible Personal Property

These are patents, royalty agreements, promissory notes, contracts, accounts receivable, wages, or other income.

Note: Many Americans have more than one bank account, insurance policy, brokerage account, and safety deposit box.  An individual's tax return can be a good source of information about bank accounts, limited partnerships & investments paying dividends or interest.
You may have to go after the information you need with a subpoena. Your attorney should demand all pertinent financial records.

Collecting Child Support

A search can aid in collecting child support owed you.  Send information discovered to the child support enforcement agency, which will attach things.  Wages can be garnished. The mother with children should know where the father works.  In the past, fathers (and some mothers), have been able to hide from the courts for a long time.  That's changed.

Public Records

Before you set out on your search, you need to know how to go about locating belongings through public records. Learn all about public records - See all states public records or all courts.

Jurisdictions

Forty-three-hundred U.S. public jurisdictions store records of interest to people attempting to locate possessions. Each jurisdiction has its own set of rules.

Each year:
  • More than eight million Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings are completed
  • Four million parcels of real property change hands or are put up for collateral
  • Millions of pieces of commercial real estate are swapped or sold
  • More than a half million new corporations start up
Records of these millions of filings, real property transactions, and new business ventures are available for your inspection at city and county courthouses and at repositories in state capitals! This is public information; the records are open to everyone.

Order an Asset Search. Experienced database search specialists will immediately go to work for you, to quickly return real, meaningful results. See our Sample Report

Local Level Search

It's almost always best to start your search at the local level: the city or county where the filing took place. These records, listed in descending order of importance, will most often provide valuable search data.
  • Real property records
  • Corporation records
  • UCC filings
  • Court records & motor vehicle information
  • Divorce proceedings records
  • Probate records

Check Employment

Salaries and wages are vulnerable.  If you've won a judgment in court, a writ of garnishment can be issued so that the debt can be collected.  Turn the information you obtain over to the county where you got your judgment and they'll take it from there.

Locating the Bank

The easiest to attach are bank accounts. If bank accounts are located, the court will enforce the provisions of your judgment.

Legal Tools

There are many important legal tools that can be utilized to retrieve valuable things once they have been identified.  This section details the more important lawful procedures available.

Writ of Execution

This is a common judicial order that directs the enforcement of a judgment. The writ instructs the sheriff or constable to seize the debtor's non-exempt property for sale at auction.  The proceeds are directed to the creditor.

Turnover Order

This remedy is generally applied when there is no other means that can satisfy the judgment. This orders a debtor to turn all non-exempt property over to the judgment holder. This remedy permits the holder of a judgment to cast a wide net to draw in all available assets when the debtor's property cannot easily be attached or seized by the ordinary legal process. It is not necessary for the holder of a judgment to first exercise all other remedies before seeking such an order.

Bank Levy

This order enables judgment holder to attach debtor's bank account.

UCC Records

The law requires filing a financing statement whenever a financial transaction takes place that involves personal property used for collateral for a loan or lease. Banks that backed the enterprise are listed.

Real Property Search - Registrar of Deeds

Q: Should a check with the county Registrar of Deeds be accomplished?
A: Yes. If a recent deed transfer has taken place, and it appears the transfer was done to escape judgment, the court may find this premeditated.

Q: What's worth going after?
A: Not the defendant's main residence, main vehicle, computer system.  Those items are exempt from debt collection in most states.

Real property is the most valuable and documented of all. Real property recordings are indexed by owner's) name and usually crossed-indexed by property location. lender and title company.  Value of the property may be determined by doc stamps or mortgage value.

Assessor's Office

Call the county assessor's office to learn the assessed value of a property.
(Note: The assessed value of a property is most often not the actual value of the property.)

Aircraft & Water Vessel Registrations

Boats & airplanes can be attached by the court, providing you can establish ownership.

Corporations

If a business incorporates, a record of that corporation's birth is on file with a state agency, usually the Secretary of State's Corporate Division.

Certain states will furnish information about directors, officers, and the principles of a corporation, but most limit the information they are willing to release

Hidden Assets

These are bank accounts, property, and expensive toys are hidden away or the title transferred to another person in an attempt (very often successfully), to retain possession in the face of a lawsuit and judgment. If the defendant is good at hiding assets, he or she will put everything in their sister's name or their mother's name, or in the name of somebody they think they can trust - making ownership difficult to prove.

If a person owns real estate - a lot of real estate - check county records to see if they've filed quick claim deeds; maybe changed property ownership over to somebody else. Most valuables are moved over to relatives or in-laws. Find out the wife's maiden name if you don't already know it.

More Background Checks Articles

For more information regarding the various types of background checks available, please read the in-depth articles from the following links: Employee Background Checks, Tenant Screening, Business Background Checks, Asset Searches and Criminal History.

Article provided by: Investigative Professionals LLC, '2012 Information Providers.
 

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