Can a tax return and/or an inheritence be garnished?

UPDATED: Sep 18, 2010

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Can a tax return and/or an inheritence be garnished?

I’m over $150,000 in debt. My husband will not file for bankruptcy. I will have judgements against me. Can a future inheritance from a relative and also our tax return be taken to pay on these judgements?Also, more of the debt is in my husband’s name only, so can the judgements in his name only have an effect on the inheritance if it is just in my name? What is the worse case scenario if we do nothing with these judgements? Right now I do not even have the money to retain a lawyer. Can I file for bankruptcy alone without him?

Asked on September 18, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Ohio


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

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

First of all, as to any debts solely in your husband's name, you are not liable for them (assuming that you did not otherwise legally agree to be).  However, to the extent that you have joint assets they would be at risk - money from tax refunds; funds in joint bank accounts; and any other non-exempt jointly held assets.  Your inheritance would be your separate property.  However, as to debts in your name or both your names, if judgements are obtained your joint as well as sole assets would be in jeopardy; this includes your inheritance (assuming that there is still a valid judgement at the time that you inherit; in OH judgments are valid for 21 years and can be renewed) .

You could for file bankruptcy solely in your own name. However, if you do this you should note that unless you are living apart and are legally separated, when only one spouse files the income and expenses of the non-filing spouse is required to be disclosed so that the court, the trustee and creditors can evaluate the household's income.  So while your husband doesn't need to file, his income would need to be verified. 

Since money is an issue, check if you qualify for representation by Legal Aid. Also, see if there is a law school nearby to where you live; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  Additionally, contact the local Bar Association in in your county; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your case "pro bono" (for free).  Finally, if you are willing to do some paperwork, you could file on your own.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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