You judgment creditor can target automobiles you own free and clear of any lean. Clients often ask me how a creditor goes about taking their cars. A particular concern is about creditors entering the homestead grounds to take a car parked in the debtor’s driveway or the debtor’s garage.
If a creditor identifies a car in your name the creditor can describe the car to the sheriff, including the VIN number, and instruct the sheriff to levy upon the car. An existing lien on the car makes levy unlikely because there typically is insufficient equity to warrant levy, but a creditor still has the right to levy upon a car subject to a lien.
Most times, the sheriff will pick up a debtor’s car when the car is on the public streets or in a public parking lot. However, a creditor can get a court order authorizing the sheriff to enter upon your homestead property to take a car.
Parking a car in your enclosed garage will not stop a levy. I have seen cases where the creditor obtained a court break order authorizing the sheriff to break into the debtor’s garage with force to take a debtor’s car. In this particular case, one of the garaged cars was owned free and clear, and another car was still subject to a purchase lien. The break order expressly authorized the sheriff to “break or remove any lock, outer door, or other hindrance or impediment to entry of the premises.”
Hiding assets, whether money or cars in a garage, is rarely an effective asset protection strategy.
About the Author
Jon Alper is an expert in asset protection planning for individuals and small businesses.
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