Collecting Your Judgment

August 9, 2013

court cashSo you won your case in court and now you just wait for the court to collect your judgment from the other party; right? Wrong! The court does not take any actions on its own to get you paid. Just because they entered a money judgment in your favor, does not mean that the other party will ever actually pay you. Not unless you take steps to enforce the judgment, that is. There are several different ways to enforce a judgment, some are quite easy and can be done on your own, while others are much more complex and you may need a professional collector to help you with them; let’s go over a few.

The Wage Garnishment

A wage garnishment is an order from the court directing the judgment debtor’s employer to pay part of their wages directly to you. For example, let’s say you get a judgment against Jane Doe for $10,000. You have asked her nicely to pay you on the judgment but she ignores all of your calls and all of your letters; time to get serious, so you file a wage garnishment order with the court. You know Jane has been working at Spriggy Sprockets for the last 5 years as a marketing rep., so you have the order served on her employer. Come next week, when Jane gets her paycheck she will be missing 25% of it, the part that got paid to you directly by her employer. Wage garnishments work very well to collect a judgment and although it may take some time for you to be paid in full, you will steadily get paid. There are some complications that can arise from this, for instance if Jane decides to quit her job at Spriggy Sprockets and go work for Elmer’s Melding, then you will have to find out about her job switch and file a new wage garnishment order. How can you find out about a judgment debtors job switch? There are several ways, but one tried and true method is discussed next.

Order to Appear for Examination

The order to appear, or “ORAPP” for short is a great way to obtain information on the judgment debtor. This document is an order from the court requiring the debtor to appear for an examination hearing where they must disclose any information relevant to the judgment collection, including but not limited to information such as: bank account information, assets such as real property or other personal property, real property information, employment information and more. So what is to keep Jane for example, from ditching the hearing and not showing up? The order to appear carries a bench warrant with it if the debtor decides not to appear, which could ultimately result in the arrest of the debtor; now that’s motivation!

Real and Personal Property Liens

Last but not least in our list of collection methods is the lien. Placing a lien on a debtors real or personal property can mean a quick payment for you if the debtor tries to sell, refinance or otherwise transfer their property. Going back to our example with Jane again, what can you do if you find out that Jane isn’t working, but has a house in Santa Monica, California? One method of insuring your judgment is to file an abstract of judgment with the county recorder where the property resides, so in our example in Los Angeles County. This puts what’s called a cloud on the property, making it necessary to remove this “cloud” if the debtor wishes to refinance, sell or otherwise transfer the home. Put simply, they can’t do anything with their property until you are paid, making you a very happy camper!

The three different methods described above are likely the easiest of the plethora of ways to collect your judgment. There are several other methods, most of them complex and time consuming. The main point is, collecting a judgment isn’t easy, it requires time and often times the know-how to complete and serve legal forms. Remember, the court won’t collect your money, you have to take the first step. The best way to make sure you get paid and the method which takes up the least amount of time is to have a professional collect your judgment for you. That sounds like a ton of money up front right? Wrong again! Most judgment collectors front all of your fees and don’t charge you a penny unless they collect your money for you. There are several ways to go about collecting a judgment, but only one way to make sure it gets done right and you get PAID! We collect judgments for as low as 10% of the total, we believe in our abilities to collect judgment so much that we cover all of your fees up front, out of our pockets. You get nothing? We get nothing, but man do we work our butts of either way! Use our contact form to hear from one of our professional judgment collectors within hours. Stop waiting and start getting paid!’


The Difficulty of Preparing Divorce Documents

December 28, 2012

Many people resort to preparing their own divorce documents instead of having someone prepare the documents for them. Most people do this because they simply cannot afford an attorney to file the forms for them. However, these cases usually end up being rejected by the courts becoming time consuming problems for the filer. Why? Because filing your own divorce forms isn’t as easy as it seems. However, there is a less costly and simpler solution. If you do choose to represent yourself, you can proceed with assistance from a Legal Document Assistant (LDA). California LDA’s must meet the requirements of a Paralegal for the State of California and must also obtain a bond and register with the county they work in.

Who Shouldn’t Prepare Their Own Documents 

Although there is always the option of filing your own divorce documents without assistance, you absolutely should not if you fall into one of these categories:

  • Couples with children
  • Couples with shared property
  • Couples married longer than 2 years
  • You or your spouse have a medical condition

Not every divorce is straightforward. People who choose to file on their own may tell you to, but you will soon find that even divorces for similar reasons require very different paperwork.

Forgetting Paperwork 

Going through a divorce is stressful; form filing shouldn’t be.  Everyone forgets an important form now and again. However, forgetting to file certain forms during your divorce can delay your divorce and cost you time, money and even property or other important assets. There are many sites online that offer you these forms for a fee. You might think it’s as easy as paying, downloading and filing these forms; however, you’ll soon find that some of these sites carry outdated forms or provide you with incorrect ones, causing you to be stuck trying to navigate an already difficult process on your own.

Legal Jargon 

If you aren’t versed in legal jargon, filing your own paperwork can be quite frustrating. After all, the average person isn’t expected to know what “cross-decrees” and “tenancy in common” means. You could spend weeks looking up definitions and trying to understand how these words are referenced on each form, not to mention many divorce forms refer to Family Law statutes; lets be honest, who wants to or even has the time to research and learn about these statutes? VThis causes additional stress and anxiety and drags the process along longer than necessary.

Solution 

You don’t need to hire an attorney to file your forms and you don’t have to do everything on your own either. You can enlist the help of Freelance Paralegal Services to file the forms for you. Freelance Paralegal Services offers legal document assistance for:

  • Divorce & Family Law
  • Business Formation
  • Estate Planning
  • CH. 7 Bankruptcy
  • Civil/Small Claims

We have two convenient locations in Venice and Torrance; however if you live outside of these communities we offer a convenient online ordering system where you can have handcrafted documents in your inbox or on your doorstep in just 24 hours. We offer low-cost and high-quality document preparation, fast and simple. If you live outside of California we offer our services online as well. Call today for a free consultation or visit us for more information.


The Purpose and Importance of Keeping Corporate Minutes

September 20, 2012

Although experts disagree on what style of minutes to keep (minimalist or comprehensive) there is absolutely no disagreement on the importance of taking corporate minutes. Corporate minutes keeps a corporation separate from the individuals who run it and minimizes tax risks. Although they are legally required to keep, some businesses choose not to and find out later why were are important. Keeping minutes is one of the most important aspects of an LLC or corporate business formation.

Why Corporate Minutes Are Necessary

For a business to keep its corporate status the shareholdes are required to hold an annual meeting. State law requires that these meetings be documented (minute taking). The purpose of minute taking in this instance is to legally separate the owners of the company from the company itself.  There are two types of corporate minutes that should be taken:

  • Annual Minutes of Shareholders
  • Board of Director Minutes

The Board of Director Minutes document actions taken on behalf of the corporation annually. They are also a pretty extensive record of what changes have occurred in the business and what decisions the officers have approved of or decided against.

What Should be Included in Corporate Minutes?

Minutes should include detailed information about the corporation. Certain details left out can cause the business to be at risk of tax penalties and of losing their corporate status. Most minutes include:

  • Tax decisions and benefits
  • S corporation election
  • Retaining professionals
  • Changes in bank account signers
  • Additional bank accounts
  • Annual Meeting of the Shareholders

Penalties for not Having Corporate Minutes

The first and most severe penalty for not having corporate minutes is taking on the liability for certain actions of the corporation. This means you can be penalized for any wrong-doing of your corporation. For instance, if your company owes money to a creditor and you fail to keep corporate minutes the creditor can hold YOU liable for the debt.

The second major penalty of not keeping completed corporate minute is losing your corporate status. There are many reasons a corporation can lose its corporate status and the inaccurate keeping of minutes or lack of minute keeping are two of them.

If you don’t have the staff on hand to prepare minutes try Freelance Paralegal Services. If you incorporate with us we will prepare your annual minutes free of charge. We prepare minutes for several businesses in Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Torrance, Hawthorne, and Venice.


Living Trusts In California

July 2, 2012

Living trusts in California are a popular choice because with them probate is avoided. Probate in California is a complex procedure that can lead to a lengthy and costly process in court for your heirs. A living trust is the only way to avoid probate and assure that your heirs receive your estate quickly and without court intervention.

How a Living Trust Works
A living trust is a legal entity that holds your assets. You give the assets to your living trust and the trust becomes the owner of your assets. The trustee–usually you, the owner of the trust–maintains control of the assets. You will not notice much difference between having your assets owned by the trust than if they were not owned by the trust. You can still use and sell the assets. If you appoint a trustee other than yourself, the trustee must control the assets in the trust according to your wishes. Most people however, choose to be the trustee of their living trusts. You can appoint a second trustee to control the trust on your behalf, in the event that you become incapable of managing it yourself. In the trust, you specify a trustee to disperse your assets after your death. After your death, the trustee disperses your assets according to the instructions you set in the trust. Because the trust owns the assets, the assets are immediately dispersed to your heirs without court proceedings.

Types of Living Trusts
There are two types of living trusts: revocable living trusts and irrevocable living trusts. Revocable living trusts can be revoked at any time, meaning you can take your assets out of the trust and end the trust. An irrevocable trust is irrevocable, meaning you cannot end the trust. Most people choose to start a revocable living trust. One of the main reasons for this is because the owner of a revocable trust can also be the trustee. With irrevocable trusts, a separate person must serve as the trustee and manage the assets on behalf of the owner.

Transferring Ownership of Assets to a Living Trust
Any assets put into the trust must be legally transferred to the trust. For example, if you wish to put your house in the trust, you must transfer ownership of the house to the trust’s name. Therefore, if the name of your trust is Mary and Mark Phillips Family Trust, the deed of the house must show the owner as the Mary and Mark Phillips Family Trust. If assets are not transferred into the name of the trust, then they are not part of the trust. The exception to this is assets that do not have an ownership title, such as jewelry, art and personal items. These types of items can simply be itemized in the trust documentation.

Setting Up a Living Trust in California
Living trusts in California are not too complex to set up. You do not need an attorney to set up your trust correctly. Our paralegals and legal document assistants can help you set up your living trust in California. We have skilled paralegals and legal document assistants in our offices in Venice and Torrance, serving the Beach Communities and South Bay.


Incorporating in California

June 11, 2012

 Many businesses, small and large, form corporations in California for the protection and benefits the business structure provides. There are several types of corporations in California, which are S-Corporations, C-Corporations, Limited Liability Corporations and two new subtypes of corporations as of January 2012 called flexible purpose corporations and benefit corporations. The best type of corporation is dependent on your type of business. Our Torrance paralegals and Venice paralegals can assist you in choosing the right type of corporation for your business. Each type of corporation has its own pros and cons, but they all provide personal asset protection, tax benefits, opportunities to raise capital, and credibility.

Personal Asset Protection

Corporations provide business owners much more protection than sole proprietorships. With a sole proprietorship, a business owner’s personal assets can be taken to cover business debts and liabilities. A corporation is the best type of business formation because it is a legal entity that is separate from the owner or owners, which provides a corporate shield – also called a corporate veil. A corporate shield is a term that describes the personal asset protection business owners of a corporation have. Because the corporation is its own legal entity, business owners only have limited liability for business debts and liabilities. If the corporation is sued, the business owner’s liability is generally limited to what he or she has invested in the business.

Tax Benefits

Incorporation can be a wise idea for tax purposes. Separate tax returns are filed for the corporation and the business owners. One way corporate business owners can save money is to keep some of the profit in the corporation to reduce their personal tax liability. Other tax benefits are available, depending on the type of corporation.

Raising Capital

It is easier for a corporation to raise money than other forms of businesses. Some types of corporations can go public and share shares of the business to raise capital. Corporations also have an easier time getting loans from banks.

Credibility

Corporations generally have more credibility in the public eye than other forms of businesses do. An INC, LLC or Corporation written after the business name makes it look more professional.

To receive the protection and benefits of a corporation, it must be correctly formed and properly managed. There is a lot of paperwork involved in forming a corporation, including articles of incorporation, bylaws, among others. Hire our Torrance legal document assistants or Venice legal document assistants to ensure your corporation documents are prepared correctly.


Chapter 7 Bankruptcy – To File or Not to File

February 22, 2011

There are many life changes that can lead to bankruptcy, job loss, health problems, divorce and small business failures to name just a few. Bankruptcy is meant to provide protection to those who are so inundated in debt that it is near impossible to get out from under it. First and foremost, Bankruptcy is neither something that should be dismissed or avoided without proper knowledge of its benefits. It’s important to get rid of the usual stigma that is felt when considering Bankruptcy; when it comes down to the grand scheme of things, Bankruptcy can end up helping you improve your credit and keep your financial and personal reputation intact. It’s important to consider what the actual effect of Bankruptcy is to you personally as well as the benefits from it. Bankruptcy protection is afforded to us by the government for a reason, it should never be dismissed merely based on social stigma but should be embraced for the benefits it provides to those who really need it. There are various different types of bankruptcy including some chapters which limit the amount of debt a debtor may discharge.

What can I expect when filing for Bankruptcy?

Prior to filing your Bankruptcy petition, you are required to complete a pre-filing counseling course and receive a certificate of completion. This requirement merely involves either internet data entry and/or an over the phone conversation with a counselor regarding your situation. Upon completion (approx 1 hour) you are provided with a debt counseling certificate. Put simply, filing a petition for Bankruptcy is a request for Bankruptcy protection under federal law. A lot of different things take place upon the filing of the petition, one of which is called the “Automatic Stay”. The automatic stay is essentially a federal court order which requires your creditors to stop all collection efforts. This means that creditors cannot contact you in any way; they cannot sue you, garnish your wages or take any other actions to collect against a debt. It is important to note that there are exceptions to the stay, namely for debtors involved in eviction proceedings among other things. For the average consumer with only credit card debt, the automatic stay is a cover all protecting your against any kind of collection actions taken against you. This can be enormously helpful to the person who is hounded day and night by creditors, sometimes border lining harassment.

When filing for Bankruptcy, you are also placing your property in the hands of the court and a court appointed trustee. You are not supposed to transfer property or make payments to your creditors within 30 days preceding your Bankruptcy filing or at any time during your bankruptcy proceeding. The trustee’s job is to determine whether you own property that can be sold to pay off some of your creditors. Most consumers are able to exempt all of their personal property under state or federal law, so that the majority of cases go through without the sale of any assets. The trustee also is allowed to investigate any financial transactions you might have made immediately preceding the case, so it is important to follow the rule of full disclosure during bankruptcy proceedings; when you disclose everything specifically in your case, this generally leaves nothing to be of concern for the trustee.

At the culmination of your bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy court holds what is called a “341 meeting” which is really just an informal hearing to wrap up your affairs in bankruptcy court. The 341 meeting allows creditors or any other interested parties to object to the discharge of your case, it also allows the trustee to cover any areas of concern or ask you more specific questions regarding possible ambiguities in your bankruptcy paperwork. Realistically, the majority of all 341 meetings go without a hitch, at most the trustee may have more specific questions for you, but in my 5 years of experience as a paralegal working with bankruptcy clients, a creditor has never made an objection to the discharge of a client’s case. Again (and I can’t stress this enough) the 341 meeting often becomes the place where inconsistencies in your paperwork take center stage, it is very important to be up front with the person who is preparing your bankruptcy paperwork; a good rule of thumb is to mention more than is necessary, in which case you will make sure that you are exercising full disclosure.

What are the effects of filing for Bankruptcy?

You generally only hear about the negative effects of Bankruptcy, needless to say there are good things that come about with the filing of a Bankruptcy. Relief from your debt and protection from your creditors, these are the two primary benefits that filing for Bankruptcy provides. As discussed earlier; generally, creditors cannot so much as contact you once you have filed for Bankruptcy, open court cases against you must be dismissed or stayed and best of all, you won’t have thirty two different messages from Kelly the debt collector. Relief is music to the ears of anyone who has had to deal with smothering and debilitating debt problems. Thousands of dollars a month can be spent paying your creditors, sometimes just to cover the interest they’re charging you; Bankruptcy can provide you the much needed relief necessary to have that money you need for the necessities of life, for your family, for you. It goes without saying that Bankruptcy has its negative effects along with its positives, although contrary to popular belief, the negatives aren’t AS negative as many would have you think. One negative effect of Bankruptcy is its impact on your credit score, generally it can lower your score by approximately (200) two hundred points. Bankruptcy also remains on your credit for at least (10) ten years. Both of these will affect your ability to obtain credit, or at least good deals on credit. This is not to say that you cannot obtain credit; on the contrary, creditors will often offer and approve you for credit within (12) twelve months succeeding the discharge of your Bankruptcy case, this is due to the fact that you cannot then file Bankruptcy again for at least (7) seven years, guaranteeing them at least the principal and often times interest on any loan they make to you.

In Conclusion…

It’s important to keep in mind those banks and credit card companies are merchants, they do business; and they do business to make money. Look out for yourself; don’t ever feel that it is disgraceful to file for Bankruptcy. It is merely a way to start over, to take advantage of relief and protection and to come out on the other end a better, debt free person.

Please keep in mind that this post is not meant to be a substitute for competent legal advice or representation, each situation is genuinely different and we cannot guarantee any results. Our company offers Bankruptcy filings in conjunction with bankruptcy attorneys and at affordable rates, contact us today for assistance with  your collection efforts and/or claims of exemptions.

 

-DFG


The Two Sides of a Judgment

January 24, 2011

It is more likely than not that most of you reading this have been involved with a lawsuit one way or another, either as a litigant or maybe a witness. Some of you may have even had some experience with having obtained a judgment, either in your favor or against you. The truth about judgments is they are only as valuable as the paper they’re printed on…until they are collected. This post will relate mainly to civil and small claims judgment, although judgments in Probate and Divorce court generally are very similar and can often times require the same collection efforts until a judgment is satisfied.

The Plaintiffs Judgment

At the end of a lawsuit, a prevailing Plaintiff will have a judgment. A judgment may involve money, property and specific performance. Most judgments include an award of money as restitution for damages. A Plaintiff with a judgment must do two things, the first one being to wait. A prevailing Plaintiff must wait at least 30 days to allow the Defendant to pay the Plaintiff as well as to allow time for the Defendant to appeal the decision if they choose to do so. Once this waiting period is over, the Plaintiff may then take steps towards collecting on his judgment. Many people have the misconception that a judgment must be paid immediately by a Defendant; this is in fact, incorrect. You may never collect on a judgment, although there are various ways of making sure a Defendant understands that paying you is in their best interest.

Collection Methods:

A first priority in collecting judgments is to secure your interest in the Defendant’s money and property. A good way to do this is to file an abstract of judgment with the court as well as the county recorder. The abstract acts as a lien against any property the Defendant owns in the county. For instance, if the Defendant owns a home in Los Angeles County, a properly filed abstract will place a lien on the property which must be removed if the Defendant wishes to sell the home and which otherwise acts to put a cloud on the title of the property. The beginning of any collections attempts requires that you have a valid address for the Defendant (there may also be situations where a once good address is now bad). It is always smart to start off with a public records search or skip trace, which will help you obtain or verify a Defendants current residential and business address. A court judgment authorizes you to do many things (as long as they are lawful). For instance, if you have a check that was made out to you in the past by the Defendant you may already hold the key to collecting your money. A writ of execution is a signed court document that can be served on a Defendant’s banking institution to levy the  funds necessary to satisfy a judgment; a writ coupled with correct banking account information may very well get you paid up front.

Although you may not know the banking information of a Defendant, you might know where they are employed. In this case you can file a document called a earnings assignment order which is served upon the Defendant’s employer. The order requires the employer to take a percentage of the Defendant’s wages and turn them over to you until the judgment is satisfied. This is an effective collection vehicle as it generally insures that you will get paid, since most people cannot afford to quit their jobs over a wage garnishment.

What if you don’t have the Defendants banking information, or their employment information? Then you have to obtain information on their assets in a different manner. An Order to Appear instructs a Defendant to appear before a judge to provide information regarding bank accounts, personal property, real property, automobiles and any other items of value that you can collect to satisfy the judgment. The penalty for not appearing when ordered to do so is the issuance of a bench warrant, so Defendants would be ill advised to avoid these hearings. After a hearing on assets is held for a Defendant, you may have many different items of property to collect on. For instance an automobile can be sold pursuant to a writ of possession which directs the sheriff to seize and sell the Defendants automobile to satisfy your judgment. The same can be done with real property, although the process of seizing and selling this kind of property is more time consuming and costly. On a side note, an order to appear can also be used to instruct a third party who has information about the Defendant’s assets to testify about their specifics.

Last but not least, judgments against businesses. If you have a judgment against a business, a properly drafted lien document filed with the Secretary of State can put a lien on a business’ personal and other business assets. A retail or store front business can also be the focus of a large amount of daily sales, in which case a till tap can be useful. A till tap is an order allowing a sheriff to monitor the income of a business on a daily basis and levy a percentage of this income to satisfy your judgment. A rental business such as a management company may generate a large amount of income through rents. An Order Assigning Rents can instruct a building’s landlord to assign rents received to you to satisfy your judgment.

The Defendant’s Judgment

If you are a Defendant, you know from reading the above information that a Plaintiff can make your life a living hell until you pay them; so what are your options? One option is to pay up, although this in and of itself gives you a few options. Sometimes the court can allow a Defendant to make payments directly to the court over a period of time, this is only done upon request and in certain circumstances. What about the situation where a Plaintiff has sent a sheriff to levy money from your bank account? Don’t worry, there is a particular procedure to this kind of collection.

When you are the Judgment Debtor:

If a writ of execution is served on your bank, you will know about it. A bank must give you at least 15 days notice that a writ of execution has been served on them in relation to your account(s). This period of time allows you to file what is called a claim of exemption. A claim of exemption tells the court that you are electing all or a certain amount of your money exempt from collection. The exemptions include retirement funds, a certain amount of your wages, etc. It is very important to act quickly when you are notified of a writ being served on your bank, filing a claim of exemption will generally trigger a court hearing which can further put off collection against you. Even in a situation where you don’t qualify for an exemption, you may still ask the court to determine a certain amount exempt based upon what is necessary for you to sustain yourself in everyday life. Again, this requires a hearing and will postpone any money being levied from your accounts.

What about an earnings assignment order that is served upon your employer? This again requires you to be notified of the order and gives you an opportunity to file a claim for exemption, based either on an actual exemption, or your necessary income to sustain yourself. Liens are a different story altogether and cannot be removed when based upon a valid judgment. Some possibilities include making payments to the Plaintiff over time or some other viable arrangement. An important thing to keep in mind as a Defendant who has a judgment against them: all judgments accrue interest at the current legal rate of 10%!! This is a big deal and should be considered, a substantial judgment can rack up a large amount of interest the longer you let it slide.

In conclusion, there are two very different sides to judgments. Both sides offer options to either party, and it is important to both to consider these options and obtain help in drafting and filing the forms necessary to further your interest, whether it be as the Plaintiff or the Defendant. It is important to note that these rules apply to California and each state is different and may have differing rules. Please also keep in mind that this post is not meant to be a substitute for competent legal advice or representation. Our company offers attorney assisted document preparation at affordable rates, contact us today for assistance with  your collection efforts and/or claims of exemptions.

 

-DFG