Citation to Discover Assets: Reveals the Location of Your Money and Property: What You Should Do Next
by Richard Fonfrias,
J.D. Chicago’s Financial Rescue &
Fonfrias Law Group, LLC
If a creditor gets a judgment against you, they will do their best to find any assets you have. You’d most likely do this if someone owed you money they weren’t paying. It’s not personal. It is painful. The creditor is doing this because they know you’re not likely to pay off the judgment. If you could, you would have done so already.
It doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed, underemployed, or if you just don’t think you owe that amount. The courts have already decided you do owe what your creditor claims. And they have ruled that your creditor can now go after your assets to get paid what they’re owed.
Once your creditor(s) have a judgment against you, they are free to go after any assets you own to pay off the judgment. They will find your assets using something called “A Citation to Discover Assets.”
What is A Citation to Discover Assets?
A Citation to Discover Assets is an intimidating sounding legal term that simply describes a court document. This document requires the debtor to come to court and answer questions about their property, income, and other things of value they may own.
You can’t lie about your assets at this meeting. The court expects you to reveal this information and be honest about it, and not hide or omit assets. Transferring your car or home title to your family to avoid naming it as an asset or squirreling away your valuables in a storage unit in another state and lying about it are generally frowned upon by the courts and your creditors. Doing such things can make your legal issues worst. When you’ve dug a financial or legal hole for yourself, the first step to getting out of it is to stop digging.
Once your assets are revealed, the judgment creditor can try to get that property or income to pay the judgment if it is not protected by law.
What is An Asset?
An asset is anything you own that has value. It can be your house, car, 401K, checking or savings account, income, jewelry, tools, boats, wages, etc., in other words, anything physical or intangible that can be sold or used to generate cash.
How Can I Avoid Having My Assets Seized?
There are two ways you can legally avoid having your assets seized and sold:
Pay Your Creditor What You Owe Them.
The best way to avoid having your assets seized and sold is to pay the creditor the amount you owe. Once you’ve paid them that amount, make sure they sign a Satisfaction and Release of Judgment form. Make a copy for your files, then file the original form at your County Court Clerk’s office. This tells anyone with an interest in your debt that you have paid the judgment in full.
If the creditor doesn’t sign the form or refuses to sign the form, you can file a motion asking the judge to sign the release. The Court Clerk’s office will explain how to fill out that form and what steps to take next.
Negotiate an Installment Plan.
In the eyes of the court, not being able to afford to pay off the judgment against you is no excuse for not paying what you owe. You must still play off the creditor — either by coming up with an installment plan or selling something you own to generate cash to pay the debt.
Don’t set up an installment plan verbally or over the telephone. Sit down and figure out how much you can afford to pay, no matter how small and how much would be an extreme hardship to pay. Maybe you can only afford $25 a month, but the creditor wants $100. If $100 a month or $50 a month would strain your resources, it’s essential to know this. If something else happens so you can’t afford that amount, you’ll fail to pay it, and things will default back to the creditor seizing your assets.
Put your proposed payment plan in writing. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should include dates, names, the time, and the terms of the agreement between you. See if the judgment creditor will agree to your plan. If you can get the creditor to agree to an installment plan, it may save you time, effort, and stress and prevent them from starting a wage garnishment proceeding or other legal action against you. Garnishment can throw you into even greater financial issues. Have them sign the agreement and keep a copy of the signed and dated agreement for yourself as well.
Fortunately, your creditor doesn’t have the last say on accepting your plan or not. If they don’t agree to your plan, you can file a motion asking the judge to approve it. If the judge approves your plan, he may stop all other collection efforts against you while you make the payments.
A court-ordered payment plan generally must be paid off within three years. No matter what you agree upon, do your best to honor it and to stay in communication with the creditor if you can’t. The courts take these plans very seriously. So, don’t propose an installment plan unless you’re sure you can make the payments on time. Most creditors are willing to be a little flexible if you have legitimate issues that delay payment, but they still expect to be paid.
If You Have Questions About Citations, or Other Legal Matters, Don’t Hesitate to Call 1 (312) 969-0730