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What is a Writ of Execution?

By T. Webster
Updated May 17, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By empanadas — On Aug 31, 2010

@Pimiento - I definitely see where you're coming from. For some people, filing for bankruptcy is bittersweet. My family and I filed a few years ago and have slowly been building ourselves back up. While it can be very damaging, the truth is that this was the best thing we could have done. Now we are able to not only tell our children about the importance of financial stability and money management.

By Pimiento — On Aug 31, 2010

A lot of people run right to a bankruptcy attorney, which is the result of one (or more) or these writs. While many people think that you shouldn't file for bankruptcy, the truth is that it could quite possibly be the best thing for you.

By bbpuff — On Aug 31, 2010

@CellMania - That is definitely good and very true advice. While people might consolidate your date - or claim to - the truth is that there are several fees, annual percentages, and lots of other little "extras" that pertain to debt consolidation.

By CellMania — On Aug 27, 2010

Very informative article. I just wanted to add that if any of you find yourself in the position to have to file bankruptcy, be cautious of whom you choose.

More often than not, all the commercials that advertise “debt consolidation” are companies that are in no way looking out for your best interests. They are looking to make money and that’s it.

Make sure you find a reputable attorney, even if they are a little more expensive. It would probably save you a lot of money and headache in the end.

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