The Citation to Discover Assets: The Tool Used to Collect on a Cook County, Illinois Judgment

by

Richard Fonfrias, J.D.
Chicago's Financial Rescue & Bankruptcy Lawyer
Fonfrias Law Group, LLC


If a creditor gets a judgment against you, it next wants to find out what assets you have so it can seize or attach those assets to satisfy its judgment. To do this, the creditor's lawyer will serve you with a Citation to Discover Assets. However, before you think a creditor can take any or all of your property, you should know that the law protects some of what you own. Illinois law grants exemptions, which allow you to keep some assets. They are the same assets that you are permitted to keep in bankruptcy. For example, the law allows you to keep:.
  • $2,400 of equity in any single motor vehicle;
  • $4,000 worth of any personal property of your choosing; and
  • $15,000 resulting from death or personal injury.
Other exemptions the law allows include unemployment benefits, Social Security benefits, and worker's compensation benefits. This list is not complete so make sure you speak with an experienced Illinois bankruptcy lawyer about exemptions to the Citation to Discover Assets.

Now, Back to the Basics

After a creditor - often a lender - gets a judgment against you, it will serve you with a Citation to Discover Assets. This means the bank wants to know what assets you have so it can collect on its judgment. It can do this by seizing your assets, garnishing your wages, levying your bank accounts, or some other means.

The Citation to Discover Assets is simply a fill-in-the-blank form and the creditor's lawyer fills in the name of the creditor, your name (the debtor), the date, the amount of the judgment and your address. He attaches a copy of the judgment and requests specific documents relating to your assets. The documents requested usually include state and federal tax returns, bank statements, recent paystubs, title papers to cars and real estate, and a signed statement of personal and real property.

Also, the lawyer may request documents pertaining to stocks, bonds, securities, personal property, home furnishings, home electronics, and so forth. The larger the judgment, the more specific and detailed the list will be. Along with the Citation, you will receive an Income and Asset Form. You are directed to fill in this form and bring it with you to the Citation hearing.

The Citation to Discover Assets will be served upon you by a Sheriff or a process server. Then you complete the form and bring the requested documents with you to the Citation hearing.

The Citation Examination

The exam usually takes place at the courthouse.

You will be sworn in by the Clerk and the creditor's lawyer will conduct the examination. The lawyer will ask if you brought the documents he requested, such as the tax returns, bank records, and similar paperwork. If you did not bring those documents, the lawyer will usually conduct the exam anyway, but then continue the exam ordering that you must produce those documents within 7 or 14 days. And continue the citation hearing for 3-4 weeks.

Usually the creditor's lawyer focuses his questions in three areas. (1) Are you employed? (2) Do you have bank accounts? (3) Do you own real estate?
  1. Employment: If you say you are employed, then the lawyer will issue a wage deduction against your employer. The lawyer can get 15% of your gross, pre-tax wages under Illinois law.
  2. Bank Account: If you have a bank account, then the lawyer locates the account and sends a third-party citation to the bank by certified mail. Then the bank must freeze your account until further order from the court. (If you think the lawyer might try to freeze your account, you'd do well to take your money out before the citation hearing.)
  3. Real Estate: If you own real estate, then the lawyer records a Memorandum of Judgment against your property. The Memorandum is signed by the judge who entered the underlying judgment. This Memorandum puts a lien on your real estate and interferes with your attempts to refinance or sell your property.
If you have equity in this real estate, the creditor's lawyer can foreclose on the lien and force a sale of your property. So if you or your lawyer can negotiate some type of settlement, you're far better off to do this.

As you can see, the purpose of a Citation to Discover Assets is so the credit can find and seize your property. You'd do well to have an experienced lawyer at your side before and during a Citation hearing so you improve your outcome as much as possible. As always, you're invited to call me, Rich Fonfrias, at 312-969-0730 or email rich@chicagomoneylawyer.com . I will be happy to answer your questions, concerning a Cook County, Illinois Judgment against you, or any other legal issue that you might be facing, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, debt consolidation, mortgage refinancing, liens or property repossession. As always, your initial consultation with me is free of charge. As a Chicago lawyer who specializes in bankruptcy, foreclosure, and credit repair, I work with creditors, banks, and other lenders to find the best solution to my clients' money problems.