How do I execute and levy against property owned by a judgment debtor?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Under execution and levy, property owned by the judgment debtor is taken and either delivered to the judgment creditor or sold with the proceeds of the sale delivered to the judgment creditor. Since the law does not generally support self-help in these situations (a judgment creditor should never personally take property away from a judgment debtor except with permission), the judgment creditor must take certain steps and get the assistance of law enforcement personnel to perform the levy.

The first step is for the judgment creditor to obtain a Writ of Execution. A Writ of Execution is similar to an Abstract of Judgment in that it states information about the judgment creditor, the judgment debtor and the judgment itself. It differs from an Abstract of Judgment in that a Writ of Execution typically contains an order from the court directing the local Sheriff or Marshal to enforce the judgment together with interest and allowable costs. The Writ of Execution is typically issued by the Clerk of Court where the judgment was obtained.

The next step is to deliver the Writ of Execution to the levying officer (usually a Sheriff, Marshal or Registered Process Server) together with instructions on what property is to be levied. Examples of typical property subject to levy include: money in a deposit account, personal property owned by the judgment debtor in the judgment debtor’s possession, personal property owned by the judgment debtor in a third parties’ possession, a vehicle or vessel owned by the judgment debtor, the debtor’s interest in personal property of a decedent’s estate, and accounts receivable, chattel paper, instruments, and negotiable documents of title owned by the judgment debtor.

Upon levy, the levying officer delivers to the judgment debtor a copy of the Writ of Execution, a notice of levy and a form listing exemption to levy. The levying officer then takes such property into his/her possession and waits a period of time to allow the judgment debtor to file a claim of exemption. If the judgment debtor does not file a claim of exemption (or if the claim of exemption is denied), the property is sold at a noticed public auction and the proceeds delivered to the judgment creditor.

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