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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Who Owns That House?

What if your judgment debtor lives in the house of their deceased parent that seemed to own the house your debtor lives in? What if you cannot find any probate records, and the house is still in the parent's name?

One of many judgment articles: I am not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion based on my experience, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.

Of course, you believe that the parent left your debtor the house, however that is only a hunch. How can you find out for sure who owns the house now, or will in the future?

One way to determine property ownership is to pull the deed at the recorder's office, then get the debtor in court with a debtor examination, to admit they are living there. Perhaps there is a living trust. As long as your debtor pays the taxes, nobody will be the wiser, unless somebody blows things up in your debtor's face.

A shortcut to discovering whose name the house lies in, is to use a professional data service. You supply the APN (assessor's parcel number), and certain data services or any title company, will show the most recent title conveyance.

Some other things you can do to figure out who owns the house, and increase the chances that you will be paid:

1) Is there a properly filled out abstract of judgment or property lien (with the last 4 digits of the debtor's SSN or driver's license) recorded in the county where the parent's house is? It is important to record an abstract, even if the debtor does not own any property, because it will attach to future interests of the debtor when title is transferred to them. If there already is an abstract recorded, that may be why the debtor has not already changed title.

2) Pull a copy of the property deed and look to see who is the owner. Is the title in the name of a living trust, or just the parent's name, or in more than one person's name?

3) Did the parent live in that house as their primary residence, or just own the house?

4) Double check, is there a probate file open in the county where the house is located? Even if the house is deeded to a living trust, sometimes there is a probate file for things that were not put into the trust. Did the parent own property somewhere else in another county too? There could be a probate file in that county for their primary residence.

5) Living trusts are not usually recorded anywhere, so you will have to get a copy, to see who the successor trustee(s) are. That person is responsible for administering the trust, and disbursing the property as called for in the trust. That person can be held accountable for their actions or non-actions.

6) A legal action may be necessary to get a court ruling on whether your debtor owns the house. Perhaps you could then have the sheriff levy on the house (in California, under CCP 700.015), however you must be fully prepared before this is done. If you do this, it is best to get an appraisal and a preliminary title report prior to serving the levy; so as not to delay getting your court order for the sheriff's auction sale.

At the court hearing, all liens on the property must be listed, along with all other relevant information. This will help the court decide to order the sale, if the parent is deceased and there is documentation showing the debtor has an interest in the property.

If the house was not transferred to a revocable living trust (if it had been, it would become irrevocable upon the death of the settlor, e.g., the parent). If the judgment amount is large; consider hiring an attorney for a limited scope of representation, to file a petition on your behalf, perhaps to have you administer the estate of the parent.

In California, probate code section 8461, subdivision (r), gives a judgment creditor a potential right to administer the estate of the parent, especially if they have been deceased for some time (at least a year, and a death certificate would certainly help) and no other eligible person named in section 8461 has stepped forward to take charge of marshaling the assets of the estate, which presumably would include the house.

Of course, if a judgment creditor steps in to administer the estate, someone (most likely a family member) will squawk and one of them will step forward and administer the estate, which is all you want them to do anyway.

The family will hire an attorney, get a bond (e.g., a $300K bond costs about $1K per year) and then do what you want - marshal the assets, sell the house (with or without the consent of the current occupant) and disburse the proceeds. Hopefully, your judgment debtor's share of the parent's estate will cover the amount they owe you for the judgment. The surety probate bond protects you from mischief.

It is not good when you hear, "What else have you got, Mr. creditor, do you have any proof of your allegation?". At court, you should only bring document exhibits that the parties signed under penalty of perjury. This is because the court can take judicial notice of the existence of a document, but not necessarily the truthfulness of the document. Otherwise, the court might decide your documents are hearsay.

Becoming the administrator of an estate is not trivial, and most people should retain an attorney. If you end up being the administrator of the parent's estate (and presumably there was not a revocable living trust that became irrevocable upon the parent's death), you should get unlimited authority to sell the assets of the estate, including the sale of the house (because of the Independent Administration of Estates Act), so you can use the proceeds of the sale to satisfy your judgment.


Mark D. Shapiro - Judgment Expert - - where judgments get Recovered.

March of 2013, LA County court consolidation

In March of 2013, LA County had a big court consolidation project.  Now, instead of having each court hear all types of cases, certain courts only hear certain types of cases. For example, where before you could file a small claims case in about 16 different courthouses, that number is now cut down to 6.

While cases may have been renumbered and moved on their computer, only active case files have physically been moved to a new court.  If the new court needs the file for any activity, they request it from the old courthouse and usually takes about 2-3 weeks for the actual case file to be moved.  Once it's "activated" then the case file remains at the new court location. You must request the files from the new court location and wait for them to be transferred.


Mark D. Shapiro - Judgment Expert - - where judgments get Recovered.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I found a very useful site  that helps people researching local court documents, legal documents for various county/state filings, as well as their family history/genealogy in the US. The site is and was recently updated to include the Official contact details for every single county clerk in the US Researchers in the US need to contact a county clerk if they are in search of any court records as well as marriage, divorce, birth and death records (vital records).  This site is very useful for judgment enforcers and collection attorneys.


Mark D. Shapiro - Judgment Expert - - where judgments get Recovered.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

When Do Bank Deposits Clear?

When a check deposit is walked into a bank branch, it is processed the same as an ATM machine deposit, meaning that at many banks, only $100 is immediately available for withdrawal or a credit toward pending debts (unless it is a business account, or the customer has some other arrangement with the bank).

One of many judgment articles: I am not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion based on my experience, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.

The only difference between a "walked-in" check deposit and an ATM deposit is the posting cut-off time. Checks are not usually processed at the individual bank they were deposited at. Many banks have a cut-off time of 4 PM for posting walked-in deposits because the bank sends by courier, all the checks received to their contracted scanning company (called a clearinghouse, in California, see commercial code 4104) for processing.

If one deposits a check at their ATM, the ATM screen usually shows the cut-off time for posting deposits (or one can ask a bank employee), often 8 or 9 PM. The reason for the later cut-off time for ATM deposits is because the deposited checks are scanned at the ATM machine, whereas the walked-in deposits are not scanned until they are processed at an off-site clearinghouse.

If one wants immediate access to the full amount of their deposited check, one must usually cash that check at the issuing (payor) bank and then deposit the cash into their own account.

With a walk-in deposit, one can ask the bank teller to credit the entire check instantly, however the teller will do that only if the check has the same payor bank as where the check is being deposited. However, even at the same bank, each branch is considered a separate bank, in regard to being a payor and depositary bank. In California, see commercial codes 4105 and 4107.

Of course, the other way to get full credit for a deposited check is when the customer has enough funds already on deposit, to cover the check if it is returned; or if the account is connected to a line of credit.

A typical bank credits all ATM deposits made before 9 PM, and all walk-in deposits made before 4 PM. The funds are usually available at 12:01 AM the following business day. If deposits are made after either cut-off times, the funds are usually available at 12:01 AM on the second business day.

Although deposits will be entered in the bank's general ledger right away, the full value of check deposits often are not available on the date of the deposit. The full value of a check is usually available 1-3 days later.

If one is trying to recover a large judgment and they know their debtor's bank, they can go to any branch of that bank (or the bank's website). Then, they can visit the new accounts desk, and ask for a disclosure statement as a potential new customer, and talk with the representative. One can ask questions to get information to help plan a future levy attack. Each financial institution has its own procedures, but must comply with the overall laws.


Mark D. Shapiro - - - where judgments get Recovered.

JudgmentBuy changes ownership

San Jose, California, United States of America very recently changed owners as Mark Shapiro stepped down, and Mr. Harry Toft of The Merdat Group, stepped up and has taken charge, and complete ownership of JudgmentBuy. For personal reasons, Shapiro has decided to step down.

Shapiro said: "Although I had to step down, I will continue helping the Merdat Group. Harry Toft's extensive experience in the judgment recovery business means a seamless transition of JudgmentBuy's excellence".

Harry Toft and the Merdat Group is based in Georgia, however JudgmentBuy conducts business mostly over the Internet, Fax, and Mail; so location is not a factor.

JudgmentBuy's expert and professional business model will remain the same. When a creditor follows step 1 on the website, for free and with no obligation or paperwork, JudgmentBuy screens the judgment debtors (using only public data records) and then finds a judgment enforcer or judgment buyer close to the debtor, and having a proven track record of responsiveness and competence with average judgments.

JudgmentBuy explains to judgment owners and judgment enforcers the truth, and not everyone wants the truth, however most people appreciate, after being disappointed by people and companies that lied to them.

JudgmentBuy recently upgraded their web server to run even faster, and changed their email address to match their domain name. JudgmentBuy's fax number also changed. Part of a growing trend, JudgmentBuy has no telephone numbers on their website, to discourage casual shoppers, and is designed for people that want to get money from their judgment.

JudgmentBuy has resumed helping creditors try to sell their judgments for cash upfront, however the problem remains that creditors with average judgments want (e.g.) 40% cash upfront and judgment buyers are only willing to pay (e.g.) 3-5% for average judgments. Of course, when the judgment debtor really has lots of available assets, judgment buyers will pay more.

JudgmentBuy's judgment-related articles are very high quality and are updated daily. The Google search built into their website, makes finding exactly what you want to know really fast and easy. Many attorneys and other experts use JudgmentBuy's articles as a time-saving quick search for judgment-related information.

What JudgmentBuy offers judgment owners (creditors) is the very best and fast, service and expertise, and no-hassle one-stop shopping. JudgmentBuy does the shopping and finds the right solution for almost every judgment. JudgmentBuy charges creditors nothing and has the best real judgment offers. More information can be found at


Mark D. Shapiro - Judgment Expert - - where judgments get Recovered.

Good news for PIs in California

Yesterday Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1608, the bill sponsored by the California Association of Licensed Investigators (CALI) to enable private investigators to establish a private investigative agency as a Limited Liability Company formerly prohibited in California. The bill text can be found at:


Mark D. Shapiro - Judgment Expert - - where judgments get Recovered.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Levying Out Of State Banks

What if you have a judgment and your debtor's bank is in another state and has no branches (or does have branches) in the state where your court is?

One of many judgment articles: I am not a lawyer, and this article is my opinion based on my experience, please consult with a lawyer if you need legal advice.

The answer depends mostly on whether the bank is state or federally chartered. Long ago, most banks were state chartered and funds were held at the branch level. This meant that a judgment creditor's levy had to be at a specific branch.

In the 1980s, the banking industry went through many changes, banks consolidations, and mergers. In 1994, U.S.C. 1811 meant that a creditor's bank levy within a state reached all accounts at every branch in that state.

In 2004, the department of the treasury issued regulation 12 C.F.R. 7.4007, which authorized national banks to honor levies nationwide.

Most courts have determined that a bank does not need to have physical custody of a depositor's money at a particular location. The newest laws let banks scan and then destroy, each deposited check. The account holders do not get their actual checks back; just a scanned copy, unless the account holders have requested returns of their actual checks, for an additional fee.

One expensive option for creditors, is to domesticate their judgment in the same state and county as the bank branch. Besides the expense, in most states the debtor would get notice of the domestication, and could move their funds before the levy could take place.

Laws and bank policies change often. However usually, when a debtor's bank has branches in the same state as the judgment, a creditor can levy any bank branch, or the bank's designated branch.

Usually, when there are no bank branches in the state where the judgment came from; much depends on whether the bank is state or nationally based, and the bank's policies.

Creditors need to find out if their debtor's bank account can be levied out of state, with the bank and perhaps also their local sheriff's department. Most sheriffs will not serve levies out of state, except for government workers.

For those with a judgment, you might want to learn the bank your debtor uses; and find out the bank's policies, in case you ever need to utilize that information. Ask the bank when a walked-in deposit is credited to an account. It is important to know when the deposits are credited in full to your debtor's account. What you learn will be helpful if you plan a bank levy.


Mark D. Shapiro - Judgment Expert - - where judgments get Recovered.