What is a Writ of Execution? - Definition & Example

Instructor: Tisha Collins Batis

Tisha is a licensed real estate agent in Texas. She holds bachelor's in legal studies and a master's degree in criminal justice.

In this lesson, the reader will learn about a Writ of Execution. This is the court order that will enforce a judgment against a person. Upon completion, the reader should have a comprehensive knowledge of this term.

Recovering Costs

Tabitha, or Tabie, couldn't pay her bills after she stopped receiving child support. She was in school and only worked part-time. Several months ago, she got into a physical altercation with another woman that left them both with injuries. Each of them had to receive medical care in the emergency room. Since Tabie started the fight, the other woman pressed charges. Then the other woman filed a lawsuit against Tabie to recover the cost of the medical bills along with pain and suffering. Tabie lost in court and the other woman won a judgment against Tabie. What will happen now?

Since Tabie didn't have a lot of money, she wasn't able to just write a check to cover the amount. The other woman went through the court process to have a writ of execution filed. Once the writ was filed and handed over to the local law enforcement agency, the police officers had the authority to enforce that writ.

The Specifics About a Writ of Execution

A writ of execution is a court order that is filed for the purpose of securing assets in payment of a judgment. Assets can include wages and personal property. A judgment will result from some type of court action against the individual. In short, it is the amount that a court will order one party to pay another party. For example, in Tabie's case it would be the judgment the other woman won in court to recover medical costs and payment for pain and suffering. A judgment can have negative effects for the person that the judgment is against. The individual can lose property and experience a financial loss as a result. One way to enforce a judgment is through the writ of execution.

Fortunately, a writ of execution doesn't simply appear from thin air. There is a process involved before a writ of execution is even required. Once a court has established that there is a judgment against an individual, a writ of execution is filed to take that individual's property to pay off the debt attached to the judgment. Then the property itself must be taken. The local law enforcement agency will be involved in this, as they will serve the writ of execution and seize the property. The writ actually gives the law enforcement agency authority to do so.

Law Enforcement Will Serve a Writ of Execution

What Exactly Can a Creditor Take?

Once a judgment has been ordered against an individual, the person (or company) that was awarded the judgment is now the creditor. In Tabie's case, the woman who sued her and won became the creditor. Tabie, on the other hand, was known as the debtor, or party who owed the amount of the judgment. What exactly could the woman take? There were a few options.

A creditor, with the help of a sheriff, can use the following methods to obtain payment for a judgment:

  1. placing a lien on real property
  2. garnishing wages
  3. levying a bank account
  4. taking other property

Garnishing wages or levying a bank account would take money right out of Tabie's pocket. If she owned real property, a lien could be placed on that property so that she couldn't sell it until the lien was paid off. Finally, if she had other assets that were private property they could be seized to sell. Perhaps she had a car that she had some equity in or was completely paid off. However, there are laws in each state regarding what property can, and cannot, be taken.

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