How to Levy a Bank Account

Author : Elden
Publish Date : 2020-11-17


How to Levy a Bank Account

I am not a lawyer. This is my opinion and a summary of what I have learned and observed. If you need legal advice, contact a lawyer.

Although this article uses the State of California as an example of specific costs and procedures, the concepts will be similar in most States.

A levy (also known as a garnishment) of a debtor's bank account is one of the least complex ways to get paid, if you know where your debtor banks.

Even this simple method can seem complex, but after you do this once, it will be easier next time. Your court may have an advisor to offer some help.

If you do not know where a debtor banks, finding their bank account is sometimes difficult. Of course if the debtor has almost no money in their account, a levy is a waste of time and money.

Bank accounts can be found by having an old check from the debtor, having someone buy something from the debtor, a debtor examination, examining third-parties such as a friend or business partner, or hiring a private investigator.

Most States let you levy on any branch of the bank within the State. In California, the law is (unless the bank agrees otherwise) one must serve the exact same branch of the bank where the debtor first opened their account.

This law (CCP 684.110) was written in days of the typewriter, where one had to refer constantly to filed signature cards. Those days are long gone, and since money is fungible, it is silly to pretend the debtor's cash is only at one specific branch. As an example, you can get cash from your bank account at any branch.

Some banks such as Wells Fargo are modern and smart enough to let you serve any branch. Most other California banks make it harder to enforce judgments by making you serve the specific branch. Some banks, like Chase, are particularly uncooperative on bank levies. If the bank does not cooperate, you might be able to sue them, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

The first step of a bank levy is to get a writ. The writ is a paper form showing that the Court agrees you have permission to have a Sheriff take a debtor's assets. Writs cost $25, and generally last for only six months.

The writ has a math work sheet, that must be carefully inspected. It will be checked carefully by the Court and then will be endorsed with the Court's seal.

If you want the writ to include costs you incurred (such as debtor exams, liens, previous levy costs) and interest earned on a judgment, you need to fill out a Memorandum Of Costs (MC-12) form, and if there are costs, serve the MC-12 by mail to the debtor.

The requirements for proof of service may tip the debtor off that you are going after their assets. Sometimes it's better not to claim costs until the first bank levy results are known.

Without a Writ, the Sheriff will not be able to levy. You cannot levy the debtor's bank account yourself. You need the Sheriff and/or a process server to serve the levy on the bank.

Specific Instructions:

1) Get a writ from the Court (currently $25) and fill it out. The best way to do this is to have a PDF program like Adobe Acrobat, and find and download download the fillable EJ-130 writ form. Fill out the writ on your computer and print out two copies. Make sure the writ is for the same County the debtor's bank account is at. If you do not have a PDF setup, you must type or very neatly write in ink on one original copy, and make a copy of it.

2) Bring the two copies to the court. Don't be surprised if the court says something is wrong, and you have to repeat step one a few times. When you get it right, you will have it ready to use as a template for future levies.

3) After the court accepts your writ and stamps it, they will make a copy for themselves. They will then stamp one of your copies as the official copy, and one as a receipt copy. Keep the receipt copy, but it does not do much as only the court-stamped copy of the writ counts.

4) Take the official copy, and make four copies of it, because they will likely be needed on future steps.

5) Make a letter of instruction for the Sheriff. This must be signed and dated by you, here is an example:

To the Sheriff of COUNTY, STATE Your Name, address, phone, and email.

 

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