Can a joint bank account with my mother be garnished?

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Can a joint bank account with my mother be garnished?

My mothers bank account was garnished by a lender. The judgement is intended for me but the bank account is joint. All the funds are direct deposits from social security for her retirement. Can this garnishment be removed? 

Asked on September 1, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Florida

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Once a creditor obtains a judgment against a debtor, they then have the legal right to seize certain assets of a debtor. For example, any bank accounts of the debtor or a portion of the debtor’s wages. This includes joint bank accounts as well. However, some assets are what are known as “exempt”. This means that, according to either federal or state law, a judgment creditor cannot lay claim to them. Social Security benefits are an example of an exempt asset.

If a creditor seizes a sole or joint account, all money in it can be taken. First, however, the account is “frozen” which means that the debtor cannot withdraw any of its money. After a set period of time (typically 60 to 90 days), the money is paid over to the creditor. A bank is not responsible in determining whether you have exempt or non-exempt funds in your accounts. What a debtor must do is file an objection with the court having jurisdiction within the time allowed by law (again usually 60 to 90 days). There are special forms that must be completed and filed with the cour (ask your bank or the clerk of the court about this). Once proof is offered that the money is exempt it will be released to the debtor. A copy of the Social Security award letter, copy of a Social Security check, or similar document should be enough evidence. Once this is done, the exempt funds will be released.


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