Asset Searches for Judgment Collection
Winning a monetary damages award is a good thing; collecting on the judgment, however, may rapidly turn that joy to frustration. The courts rarely compel debtors to pay their debts so when the losing party fails to satisfy a judgment, collection efforts will depend on successful asset searches.
Asset Searches on Individual Debtors
The focus of a comprehensive asset investigation on an individual includes:
- Financial Accounts
(Personal Bank, Investment, Brokerage and Retirement Accounts)
- Real Property
(Current Ownership, Financing History, and Recent Sales/Transfers) *
- Fraudulent Conveyances
(Transfers of Property to Family Members, Close Associates or Corporate Entities)
- Employment and Business Interests
- (Including Shell Corporations and special-purpose Limited Liability Companies)
- Personal and Family Trusts
- Financial Awards and Settlements
(Divorce, Probate, Insurance and Civil Cases)
- Other Tangible Assets
(Motor Vehicles, Aircraft and Boats)
* I cannot more strongly stress the importance of real estate sale dates to any financial asset search, and hope for recovery. We have located significant hidden money accounts that we became aware of upon discovering relatively current real estate sales. That sale money has gone somewhere.
Discovering Financial Accounts*
For medium to large judgments, we suggest nationwide searches for bank, brokerage and retirement accounts.
Account search results generally include:
- Account Type(s)
- Name and Address of Financial Institution
- Approximate Balance (Bank Accounts)
- Approximate Portfolio Value (Investment and Retirement Accounts)
Bank accounts include checking and savings accounts at banks, credit unions, and savings and loan associations. Certificates of Deposit (CDs) are also identifiable in certain cases.
Brokerage and retirement accounts include trading portfolios of stocks and bonds, mutual funds, 401(k) accounts, and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) held at top brokerage houses and mutual fund institutions throughout the U.S.
Other types of financial accounts – from cryptocurrencies to mortgages, military (and civilian) pensions, to corporate profit-sharing plans – are also identifiable through various (and always, legal) methods and resources. There is now also the capability to identify foreign and offshore accounts.
These asset and bank searches are lawful as long as they are conducted in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) financial privacy laws.
*With financial accounts, ensure that you have all owner and signer information, as well as terms of the specific account structure. A simple signatory agreement generally allows a designated individual to transact on the account (per transaction limits are often imposed) while ownership of the account is just that, and most often not automatically transferrable to a willed beneficiary should the primary account owner becomes disabled or deceased.
I strongly suggest obtaining as much information as possible on the defaulting debtor. Asset searches are not a game to see how much the investigator, with minimal information, can locate recoverable assets. The most successful asset searches are conducted with the active participation of the judgment awardee- people often know more than they consciously realize about their debtors.
BNI Operatives; situationaly aware.
As always, stay safe.