What happens if you cannot pay a judgement issued against you?

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What happens if you cannot pay a judgement issued against you?

My mother is going to have a judgement issued against her. She is on a fixed income of Social Security only and cannot pay the amount in the judgment. She admits to owing the money and we are trying to help her make her monthly bills but there is no money left to pay the judgement of $7000. What could happen to her house and personal property.

Asked on May 11, 2009 under Real Estate Law, South Carolina

Answers:

N. K., Member, Iowa and Illinois Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor




Here is a section of the South Carolina Code regarding exempt property:
SECTION 15-41-30. Property exempt from attachment, levy, and sale.
(A) The following real and personal property of a debtor domiciled in this State is exempt from attachment, levy, and sale under any mesne or final process issued by a court or bankruptcy proceeding:
(1) The debtor's aggregate interest, not to exceed fifty thousand dollars in value, in real property or personal property that the debtor or a dependent of the debtor uses as a residence, in a cooperative that owns property that the debtor or a dependent of the debtor uses as a residence, or in a burial plot for the debtor or a dependent of the debtor, except that the aggregate value of multiple homestead exemptions allowable with respect to a single living unit may not exceed one hundred thousand dollars. If there are multiple owners of such a living unit exempt as a homestead, the value of the exemption of each individual owner may not exceed his fractional portion of one hundred thousand dollars.
(2) The debtor's interest, not to exceed five thousand dollars in value, in one motor vehicle.
(3) The debtor's interest, not to exceed four thousand dollars in aggregate value in household furnishings, household goods, wearing apparel, appliances, books, animals, crops, or musical instruments, that are held primarily for the personal, family, or household use of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor.
(4) The debtor's aggregate interest, not to exceed one thousand dollars in value, in jewelry held primarily for the personal, family, or household use of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor.
(5) The debtor's aggregate interest in cash and other liquid assets to the extent of a value not exceeding five thousand dollars, except that this exemption is available only to an individual who does not claim a homestead exemption. The term "liquid assets" includes deposits, securities, notes, drafts, unpaid earnings not otherwise exempt, accrued vacation pay, refunds, prepayments, and other receivables.
(6) The debtor's aggregate interest, not to exceed one thousand five hundred dollars in value, in any implements, professional books, or tools of the trade of the debtor or the trade of a dependent of the debtor.
(7) The debtor's aggregate interest in any property, not to exceed five thousand dollars in value of an unused exemption amount to which the debtor is entitled pursuant to subsection (A), items (1) through (6).
(8) Any unmatured life insurance contract owned by the debtor, other than a credit life insurance contract.
(9) The debtor's aggregate interest, not to exceed in value four thousand dollars less any amount of property of the estate transferred in the manner specified in Section 542(d) of the Bankruptcy Code of 1978, in any accrued dividend or interest under, or loan value of, any unmatured life insurance contract owned by the debtor under which the insured is the debtor or an individual of whom the debtor is a dependent.
(10) Professionally prescribed health aids for the debtor or a dependent of the debtor.
(11) The debtor's right to receive or property that is traceable to:
(a) a social security benefit, unemployment compensation, or a local public assistance benefit;
(b) a veteran's benefit;
(c) a disability benefit, except as provided in Section 15-41-33, or an illness or unemployment benefit;
(d) alimony, support, or separate maintenance; or
(e) a payment under a stock bonus, pension, profit sharing, annuity, or similar plan or contract on account of illness, disability, death, age, or length of service, unless:
(i) the plan or contract was established by or under the auspices of an insider that employed the debtor at the time the debtor's rights under the plan or contract arose;
(ii) the payment is on account of age or length of service; and
(iii) the plan or contract does not qualify under Sections 401(a), 403(a), 403(b), or 409 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (26 U.S.C. 401(a), 403(a), 403(b), or 409).
(12) The debtor's right to receive or property that is traceable to:
(a) an award under a crime victim's reparation law;
(b) a payment on account of the bodily injury of the debtor or of the wrongful death or bodily injury of another individual of whom the debtor was or is a dependent; or
(c) a payment under a life insurance contract that insured the life of an individual of whom the debtor was a dependent on the date of that individual's death, to the extent reasonably necessary for the support of the debtor and any dependent of the debtor.
(13) The debtor's right to receive individual retirement accounts as described in Sections 408(a) and 408A of the Internal Revenue Code, individual retirement annuities as described in Section 408(b) of the Internal Revenue Code, and accounts established as part of a trust described in Section 408(c) of the Internal Revenue Code, to the extent reasonably necessary for the support of the debtor and any dependent of the debtor. A claimed exemption may be reduced or eliminated by the amount of a fraudulent conveyance into the individual retirement account or other plan. For purposes of this item, "Internal Revenue Code" has the meaning provided in Section 12-6-40(A).
(14) The debtor's interest in a pension plan qualified under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended.
(B) Beginning on July 1, 2008, and each even-numbered year thereafter, each dollar amount in subsection (A), items (1) through (14), immediately before July first, must be adjusted to reflect the change in the Southeastern Consumer Price Index, All Urban Consumers, as published by the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the most recent year ending immediately before January first preceding July first, and to round to the nearest twenty-five dollars, the dollar amount that represents this change. No later than March first of each even-numbered year, the Economic Research Section of the Office of Research and Statistics of the State Budget and Control Board shall publish in the State Register the dollar amounts that will become effective on July first of each even-numbered year.

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It is possible that if she has personal property of any substantial value -- a car or expensive jewelry or art work, for example, that some of it could be taken and sold at a sheriff's sale to satisfy the judgment.  Ordinarily, they would not take her house unless the personal property would not be enough; while it strikes me as very harsh to force a person to sell her house for a $7,000 judgment, I'm not a South Carolina lawyer and I can't tell you it couldn't happen. As far as I know, a judgment creditor cannot attach Social Security benefits the way they could her paycheck if she were working.

If there is personal property like that, it might make sense for her to sell it herself, since she could almost certainly get better prices that way, and end up losing fewer things.

But before doing that, she should probably have her attorney talk to the creditor, and see if they will accept installment payments in an amount that you can afford.  An attorney will be much more effective, usually, in these kinds of negotiations, and well worth the cost.  If she doesn't already have a lawyer, from the case that's going to end with the judgment, you can start looking for one on our website, http://attorneypages.com


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 AttorneyPages.com 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.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption