Household debt grew at the fastest pace since 2007 in the fourth quarter of 2021, reaching a record high of $16 trillion. Many individuals and households struggle to stay on top of it, leaving them prone to bank account freezes and garnishment.
Many people use debt consolidation to make their debts easier to manage. But if you are facing garnishment of your bank account, you may need to take additional action to protect your finances.
Let’s look at protecting your bank account from garnishment and how a Philadelphia bankruptcy law firm can help.
What Is Garnishment?
Garnishment is when a third party, such as a debt collector or the court, can take a portion of the money in your bank account or wages. This can occur after you enter into a contract, such as a home or a car loan. If you default on the agreement, the creditor can file for a court judgment, and garnishment can begin.
Many factors can lead to garnishment, including bankruptcy, student loans, and IRS tax debt.
In Pennsylvania, most private creditors cannot get orders to garnish your wages directly from your employer. However, once the wages reach your bank account, they are fair game for garnishment. If you work in another state, it is possible in some cases for the creditor to get a wage garnishment judgment in that state.
A creditor can obtain a writ of execution to levy your bank account without notice. Therefore, the creditor can freeze your account and take all but $300 from your account up to the complete judgment account.
Should You Consider Debt Consolidation?
Debt consolidation is a popular way to reorganize your debts and make them more manageable when you take out a new loan at favorable terms to pay off all of your debts.
When it’s done, you only need to focus on one loan. This new loan can be either a secured or unsecured loan.
It’s important to note that although debt consolidation may help you pay down your debt, it does not protect you from garnishment. If this is your main concern, an exemption or bankruptcy may be more helpful.
Is Your Bank Account Exempt?
If you want to protect your bank from garnishment, the easiest way is to stop the garnishment before it becomes a problem. This is easiest to do if the money in your account is exempt from garnishment.
You may still need a hearing for many of these options to present your exemption case. Hiring an attorney may help you build a better chance and provide valuable advice.
The first thing to try is to see if your money is exempt from garnishment.
Often this is because of its source. For this option, you want all of the money in your account to be from one of these sources:
- Social Security
- Social Security Disability
- Veterans Benefits or Disability
- An injury settlement
If this is the case, you can have your money exempted from garnishment if you take action quickly. You will want to file an objection to the garnishment, which should have come with your summons.
Check the box saying the funds are exempt and file it with the county court clerk. You should also request a hearing. You need to file this objection within three days of receiving the garnishment summons.
Lack of Ownership
You may also qualify for exemption due to lack of ownership. For example, you may be an owner of a bank account, but the money is that of your child, who is a minor.
In this case, you will need to request a hearing and explain that the money is not your own and your child does not owe the money. You will need to provide bank statements and pay stubs to prove that you did not deposit the money. In addition, your child will need to sign the hearing request form.
Tenancy by the Entireties
You may be able to protect your account if you are married and hold your joint property as tenants by the entire. This could also help protect any common property such as a home or mutual bank account.
In Pennsylvania, one spouse’s creditor cannot go after joint property. It’s important to note that this does not protect against joint creditors. Protection may also be removed if the property is sold or transferred, there is a divorce, or a legal separation involves a property settlement.
Sometimes a collection agency will freeze the money in your bank account. If this is the case, you may be able to claim exemption from garnishment based on the value of your property.
This type of objection is challenging to argue. Having an attorney to help is vital in getting an exemption based on frozen funds.
How to Handle Paychecks
Sometimes you are not eligible for an exemption. Luckily there are other ways to protect your bank account from creditors. In the meantime, you will need to save new money coming in from your paychecks or other sources.
The best way to do this is to switch your finances to a cash basis. You should not have your paycheck deposited into your bank account electronically. Instead, ask your employer for a paper check and cash it.
You will need to pay your bills with cash or money orders.
Some employers require electronic wage deposits. In this case, ask for your paycheck to go on a prepaid debit card from Wal-Mart, H&R Block, or NetSpend. Just make sure it is not tied to a checking or savings account.
You may end up paying a monthly fee for a card like this. However, your creditors will not be able to garnish it as they could with money in your bank account.
In most cases, it is also advisable to move your bank accounts. You should choose a new bank that you have not used before. Just stop all automatic deposits and withdrawals in the old version.
Bankruptcy is a scary word for many people. However, it can be crucial to protect your bank account from garnishment and get you back on your financial feet.
When you file bankruptcy, your creditors are not allowed to garnish your account anymore. In addition, some people can get a refund of some of the money that has already been garnished.
Bankruptcy can be a better idea than debt consolidation if it will take you over five years to pay off the new debt. With the help of a bankruptcy attorney, you can make sure you are making the best decision for your finances.
How Does Bankruptcy Work?
Bankruptcy offers debt relief and can give you a way to consolidate your debt, depending on which chapter is best. There are six types of bankruptcy in the US. However, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 are the most common forms available for individuals.
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, most of an individual’s property is liquidated, and the proceeds are distributed to creditors. You may be able to keep specific exempt property.
After this, all of your eligible debts are discharged, meaning you don’t have to worry about them anymore.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to develop a plan to pay back your debts if you have a regular income and your debt is not above a certain level. A considerable benefit of this type is avoiding foreclosure on your home.
What about Other Assets?
Are you worried your nest eggs will be garnished? Money in retirement accounts is exempt from most creditors, including 401ks, IRAs, pensions, and similar statements.
In addition, your retirement accounts are protected from bankruptcy in most cases. You don’t have to worry about draining your retirement funds if you go this route.
How a Philadelphia Bankruptcy Law Firm Can Help
The process of filing bankruptcy can be confusing. You need to choose the best type to file, attend court hearings, and complete complicated paperwork. Having someone on your side to represent you and give you advice can be a lifesaver.
A bankruptcy law firm in Philadelphia can help walk you through the process. In addition, they can even help you figure out how to protect as much of your property as possible.
You are better off contacting a law firm as soon as you are served with a summons. Your attorney can help you decide if any of your bank accounts may be exempt. They can also help you determine if bankruptcy is the best option and create a plan to move forward.
Sadek Bankruptcy Law Offices are also foreclosure defense attorneys. They can also help you keep your home, preventing further hardship.
Protect Your Bank Account from Garnishment. Call Us at 215-545-0008
Garnishment can eat away at the funds you need to live and pay down your debts. While you might consider debt consolidation to make your debt easier to pay, it won’t protect your bank account from garnishment.
Luckily, a bankruptcy attorney in Philadelphia can help you navigate the process to protect your money.
Contact Sadek Bankruptcy Law Offices to speak with a bankruptcy attorney today.