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How to Stop a Bank Levy in California - File a Claim of Exemptions

Stop a Bank LevyWhen a creditor has obtained a judgment against you, one of the typical methods creditors use to collect on the judgment is a levy on a bank account. You will generally receive a Notice of Levy indicating which accounts the creditor is levying to satisfy the judgment. There are several steps you can take to stop the bank levy and have the funds returned to you. If a creditor has levied your bank account you can stop the bank levy through:

  • Filing a Claim of Exemptions

  • Filing for Bankruptcy Protection

Both of these tools provide important protections that can help you keep your assets and stop creditor action. If your funds are social security benefits then you should visit our blog on:

Filing a Claim of Exemptions in California

Typically when a creditor levies a bank account the account will be frozen and the bank will hold the funds for a period of 10 days. During this period you can file a claim of exemptions that may allow you to have the funds returned to you.

First Step- Are Your Funds Exempt

Under California law certain types of income and funds are exempt from creditor collection and are not subject to a bank levy. The following funds are exempt from a bank levy:

  1. 75% of Paid Earnings that were Paid 30 days before the Levy

  2. Social Security Benefits

  3. Worker's Compensation Benefits

  4. Unemployment Benefits

  5. Funds that are necessary for basic necessities.

  6. Veterans Benefits

  7. Supplemental Security Income

  8. Disability insurance benefits

This is not an exhaustive list of all the types of funds that you can exempt from a bank levy. You can find a more complete list of the funds that you may exempt here: Exemptions from Enforcement of Judgments

Step Two-Complete Forms for Claiming Exemption

If your funds are exempt from levying then you need to fill out the following 3 forms within 10 days of the bank levy. You must provide the completed forms to the sheriffs office listed in the Notice of Levy.

You should make 3 copies of the following documents once you have completed the forms and bring them to the sheriffs office that is designated on the Notice of Levy.

Step Three-Attend a Hearing

Whether you will need to attend a hearing will depend on whether the creditor objects to your claim of exemptions. If the creditor does not object then the levied funds will be returned to you. If the creditor objects to the claim of exemptions then a hearing will be set. At the hearing the judge will review the claim of exemptions and determine whether you are entitled to claim the exemptions. The judge will either:

  • Grant the Claim of Exemptions and Return the Funds to You

  • Deny the Claim of Exemptions and Allow the Creditor To Continue with the Levy.

Please be aware that even if the claim of exemptions is granted, this does not mean that the creditor cannot seek to levy additional bank accounts or other funds. When the claim of exemptions is allowed it only means that the funds that were levied were exempt. It does not mean that the judgment is not valid or that other funds cannot be levied.

Filing for Bankruptcy in California

When you file for bankruptcy protection the automatic stay stops any potential or current bank levies. The creditor must cease all collection efforts including efforts to collect on a bank levy. If there is a pending bank levy and the sheriff or creditor is holding funds, then your attorney may utilize several different methods to try to obtain the funds back:

If the funds are with the creditor:

  • Preference Action-your attorney may be able to file a preference action in bankruptcy court if the amount of the levied funds is $600 or over in the last 90 days. The creditor will be required to return the funds to you if the action is successful.

If the funds are with the sheriff:

  • Motion for Turnover of Personal Property -If the funds are being held by the sheriffs office then the sheriff may release the funds to you, or require a court order for the funds to be returned. If you have a legal right to the property then your attorney can file a Motion for Turnover of Personal Property.

If a creditor is levying your bank account, it is important that you take the necessary steps to protect you property and family. Seek legal advice on how you can stop a bank levy and protect yourself from future bank levies.


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