Can My Bank Account Be Garnished Without Notice?

Can my bank account be garnished without notice? Many people who owe money keep a lot of cash in their bank accounts. When someone they owe money to wins a legal case against them, the creditor can take some of the money from their bank account to get paid. So, yes, your bank account can be garnished even without notice.

This can make it hard for you to cover your living costs and legal fees. Taking money from a bank account is an easy legal process.

What Does Bank Garnishment Mean?

If a creditor wins a case to get their money back, they can use bank account garnishment to recover the funds. This is a legal method of taking money from the person who owes it. Also, this is allowed in most states, but only if the money in the account is not protected.

Bank garnishment is a common way creditors collect their money back. It is usually fast and not too expensive for them. If there is a lot of money in the account, it makes it even easier for the creditor to get paid.

Can My Bank Account Be Garnished Without Notice?

Can My Bank Account Be Garnished Without Notice

Yes, your bank account can be garnished without notice. The person or company you owe money to does not have to let you know beforehand.

In Florida, for example, the creditor must notify you about the garnishment after they have already informed the bank, according to Florida Statutes. Once the bank gets the notice, they’ll put a hold on your account. The notice will tell you about your rights during this process and how you can protect some of your money if you’re eligible.

How Does a Bank Garnishment Work?

If someone owes money and a court decides they have to pay, the court can use the specific state’s statutes to take the money from the bank. In Florida, this will be Chapter 77 of the Florida Statutes.

The court can ask the bank to freeze the account and any safe deposit boxes. This happens when the person who owes money has not paid what they owe. The bank has to freeze all the accounts and safe deposit boxes that belong to the person who owes money, even if the person only partly owns those accounts.

Banks do not need to figure out if the person who owes money has special rules that protect some of their money. It is up to the person who owes money to say if these rules apply, or to show that the money in the account actually belongs to someone else.

How to Avoid Garnishment of Bank Accounts

You can open a bank account that creditors cannot take money from. In this section, you will learn about the steps to avoid garnishment of bank accounts.

1. Open Your Bank Account in a State Without Garnishment

You can keep your bank account safe from creditors. The idea is to open a bank account that creditors cannot touch. Just open a bank in a state where bank garnishment is not allowed. By so doing, your money can’t be taken while in a legal process to keep your money safe.

If the laws in a state don’t let creditors take money from bank accounts, the person who owes money can keep money in the account to pay for everyday needs and legal fees. It’s good if the person doesn’t even have to live in that state, they can just pick a bank there to protect their money, like someone in Florida choosing a bank in that safe state.

Only a few states stop creditors from taking money from bank accounts, regardless of how much money is there. But most of the banks in these states only let people open accounts if they live in that state. It can be hard to find a bank that’s only in one of these states and still lets people from Florida open accounts there.

2. Start a Bank Account That’s Protected

In a state like Florida, if a husband and wife own a joint bank account, only if both of them reside there can someone else take it. However, this rule does not work if both of them owe money. This special type of ownership is controlled by Section 655.79 of the Florida Statutes.

Even if a person does not reside in Florida, they can still keep a secure bank account there that is immune to garnishment by creditors. The laws protect these accounts as long as they are in the state, no matter where the owner lives.

Just be careful, because there are specific obligations if a bank does not automatically provide this protection. Often, you want to choose a Florida bank that clearly offers this type of protection and shows it on their bank statements.

Even if a creditor notifies the bank to garnish money from a protected account owned by a married couple, the bank will still close the account. The person who owns the account will need to get a lawyer to prove in court that the money should be protected and the bank should give it back. The bank might not get in trouble for keeping the money frozen while this court process happens.

3. Create a Wage Account or Government Benefit Account

In certain states, such as North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Florida, there are laws that prevent the deduction of wages from the main earner in the family. Also, many federal benefits, like social security and disability payments, cannot be taken away as per federal regulations.

These protections continue even after the funds are put in the debtor’s bank account, but only if they can show where the funds came from, proving they are protected.

It is simpler to prove this when the bank account only holds funds from the protected source. So, it’s best to keep protected and non-protected funds separate in the bank account.

4. Store Money in an Offshore Bank Account

With an offshore account, you can avoid garnishment of bank accounts. An offshore bank account is a bank account in a different country than the United States. Even though it is not exactly a protected account, it’s hard for a creditor to get the money from an offshore bank account. You might have heard of Swiss bank accounts, but many other offshore bank accounts also keep your money safe from creditors.

In some states, a court needs to have power over the bank in another country and the money itself to order that bank to pay your money to the creditor.

States That Prohibit Bank Garnishment

Knowing that your bank account can be garnished without notice, you might want to consider saving your money in a “no garnishment” state.

Different states have different requirements regarding taking money from your bank account to pay debts. Some states have laws that make it harder for creditors to do this. Here’s a list of states where creditors cannot take money from your bank account:

  • Maryland
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina

Different types of decisions affect whether banks are completely safe from having money taken from accounts. But for most people in the U.S., only a small number of banks cannot take money to pay off a debt. Also, in certain states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas, laws prevent taking money from wages to pay off debts.

Your Bank Account Can Be Frozen Due to Legal Action

A bank account levy is a legal action in certain places. It’s when someone who won a court case takes money from your bank account to get paid. This is different from taking money from your paycheck (which is called garnishment). To levy a bank account, the person who won the case asks the court to freeze your account. Then they give this order to your bank, and the bank lets them take out all the money you owe them.

In some states, such as Florida, bank account levies are called garnishments. The law lets them freeze your account for a little while. This gives you a chance to protect some of your money from the person you owe. After that, whatever’s left goes to the person you owe.

There’s also a federal law – if you owe money to the government, like fines or money you have to pay back, they can take it from your bank account.

What to Do if Bank Account is Garnished

As you have come to know, your bank account can be garnished without notice. So, what do you do if your account is garnished?

Check where the money in the account came from.It’s crucial to identify the source of the funds in the account. Some sources, like retirement savings or annuities, may be legally protected from being garnished. This can help you defend against the garnishment action.
Get the signature card for the account.If you share the account with another person (e.g., your spouse), obtaining the signature card from the bank will confirm joint ownership. Joint accounts may have specific protections against garnishment under the law.
Complete a claim of exemption form.If the money in the account is exempt under law (like Social Security benefits or pension funds), completing a claim of exemption form will officially assert this protection. This can halt or reverse the garnishment process.
Check how the taking money process happened.Understanding the legality of the garnishment process is important. Examine the actions of the creditor to see if they have violated any laws or regulations concerning garnishment. Legal violations can provide you with recourse.

How to Fight Bank Garnishment

You can do this by following your state’s law and using special protections. If you get money that’s protected from being taken, like from a special source, and put it in your bank account, it stays protected.

Also, there are ways to fight against the process of taking money from your account. The rules for bank garnishment are strict in many states, and the creditors have to follow certain steps and time limits. If they do not, the process can be stopped and the money released.

If someone is trying to garnish money from your bank account, the bank is not usually responsible for holding onto those funds while you are fighting for protection in court. But there’s a special rule for social security payments – in Florida, the bank has to give back any money from social security right away if it’s taken.

Even if your bank account only has protected money, the person you owe can still try to take money from it. If their attempt doesn’t work, they usually aren’t held responsible for it not working out.

Garnish Out of State Bank Account

In the past, when most banks were state-chartered, their funds were held at the branch level, requiring a branch-specific levy. However, the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994 and subsequent regulations have allowed national banks to consolidate their depository frameworks. This means a levy within a state would capture all accounts in every branch within that state.

Many national banks have moved to a single depository framework, allowing them to honor levies on a national basis. For state-chartered banks with multiple locations, courts generally agree that a bank does not have physical custody of a depositor’s money at a particular site. Instead, the deposit establishes a debt that the bank owes to the depositor, providing the foundation for the judgment creditor’s recovery.

How Do You Store Money in an Offshore Account?

Some people who owe money think about opening bank accounts in other countries. They think that the laws in the United States regarding taking their money won’t have an impact on these accounts. But it’s not easy for U.S. citizens to open these accounts due to anti-terrorism rules. Usually, offshore bank accounts are set up through special legal structures like trusts or companies made by lawyers.

Using offshore trust setups has downsides. Creating these special foreign companies and bank accounts is hard and costs a lot of money. Plus, the person who owes money needs to give up control over these companies and accounts to trustees and managers to actually protect their assets. Sending money to these foreign companies can be seen as dishonest under certain laws.

But there’s some good news: a few offshore banks now let people from the U.S. open their own accounts without having to set up a foreign company or trust.

Can a Business Account Be Garnished?

If someone owes money and has a business, they can use the business bank account to keep their personal money safe from being taken. They can keep the money in the business account instead of their personal one.

If the person who’s owed money has a legal right to take money from the person and not the business, they can’t just take money from the business account. They need to look at how much the person owns in the business and try to get their money from there.

If the person who’s owed money wants to take things a debtor owns, they could take the debtor’s ownership in a company. If the company is owned by multiple people, the person who’s owed money in Florida can only ask for money that would be given to the debtor by the company. But if the company doesn’t give the debtor any money, then the person who’s owed money won’t get anything.

Sometimes, the debtor can find ways to get money from the company’s bank account even if the company doesn’t give them money directly. This depends on what the agreement with the company says.


So, can my bank account be garnished without notice? Indeed, it can. Bank garnishment is legal, and creditors use it to recover money they are owed. Unfortunately, it can create financial hardships for those who find their accounts suddenly depleted. Laws vary by state, and in some cases, even out-of-state accounts can be garnished, adding another layer of complexity.

If you are concerned about the possibility of bank garnishment, just be proactive. You can take steps to protect your funds by opening accounts in states with more stringent garnishment laws or by keeping certain types of funds, like social security or disability payments, in separate accounts that may be exempt from garnishment.

Frequently Asked Questions

While answering the question “Can my bank account be garnished without notice?”, the following commonly asked questions have been identified.

What bank accounts are protected from creditors?

In almost every state in the U.S., if you owe money, a creditor can take money from your bank account. This rule applies to all kinds of banks, whether they are regular savings and checking accounts or online banks.

Can I open a new bank account if I have a levy?

Sure, you can open a new bank account even if your current one is being garnished or you have a levy. The garnishment does not stop you from having other accounts, whether at the same bank or a different one.

How do creditors find your bank account?

Creditors can locate a debtor’s bank accounts using post-judgment discovery. This means they use legal methods to figure out where the debtor keeps their money. They can look at things like the debtor’s tax documents, bank statements, and other financial records. They might also ask the debtor questions under oath about their assets. Some services can even search national bank records to find a debtor’s banking history.

Can an LLC bank account be garnished?

If an LLC owes money and a court order allows garnishment, the money in the bank account can be taken to pay the debt. But if it is the owner of the company who owes money, the money in the company’s bank account cannot be taken directly. Instead, the creditor can get a special order that stops the company from giving money to the owner until the debt is paid.

What’s the limit for bank account garnishment?

In most cases, a creditor can take money from your bank account through garnishment, but only up to the amount of the debt you owe them. Some money, called exempt funds, cannot be taken. Additionally, someone who does not owe the debt (such as a co-owner of the account) may not be able to take money from your bank account through garnishment.

Can a joint account be garnished?

A joint bank account can be garnished, even if the other owner is not responsible for the debt. If the money in the account belongs only to the person who does not owe money, the person who owes money might be able to show in court that they do not have a right to that money and it cannot be taken.

Can a savings account be garnished?

Yes, a savings account can be garnished. This also applies to different types of accounts, including checking, online savings, and more.

How many times can a creditor levy your bank account?

A creditor can levy your bank account many times if they have a legal order. This is called levying or garnishing. But they cannot disturb the debtor. Taking money from a bank account multiple times is not considered bothersome, especially if the money in the account is not protected from being taken.

How long can a bank account be frozen?

When a bank account is frozen, it stays that way until the process of garnishment is completely sorted out. This usually takes around 2 to 4 months. During this time, the process can take a while because the person who owes money might say they shouldn’t have to pay or disagree with how the money is being taken.

How long does bank account garnishment last?

Usually, bank account garnishment takes around 1 to 2 weeks. When a creditor asks the court to take money from a bank account, it usually happens in a few days, but sometimes it can take longer. Once the court says it’s okay, the creditor gives papers to the bank, and the bank stops the debtor from using their accounts.

Can debt collectors see your bank account balance?

Creditors who have a judgment against you cannot check your online account balances. However, they can find out by requesting information from your bank, like bank statements, through a legal process called a subpoena.

Can Cash App account be garnished?

Yes, an app like Cash App can have money taken from it through garnishment. The company behind Cash App, called Block, Inc., follows the rules of garnishment. According to the Cash App Terms of Service, if there is a legal order, they may have to freeze or give away funds in your account.

Read also: Steps to Pay Off an Eviction Debt

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