Can collection agencies (or law firm - debt collector) garnish my 401k or Roth IRA? and my husband's if debt is just my own?

Asked over 3 years ago - Los Angeles, CA

just wondering if debt collector can reach even into the retirement plan. I know that they can garnish wages but i wasn't sure on this one. please help!

Additional information

also, can they reach into saving accounts? CD's? and any other investment? if they're not joint account and if it's just my husband's?

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Robert Harlan Stempler

    Contributor Level 19

    Answered . A levy on a judgment does not permit seizing exempt assets, such as your 401k, IRA, or other retirement programs, but it can seize funds sitting in regular checking or savings. If those funds are from Social Security or other exempt source, then seizure may be limited or prohibited. See the list of exempt funds in the link below.

    If you are named in a lawsuit, then you must respond to it, preferably with a collection defense attorney. If you fail to timely respond, then a default judgment may be entered, then they can try to seize your non-exempt funds, even if you disagree that this was your debt. Please see my blog on this, below, regarding mistaken identity, which is a similar dispute (not my debt).

    I also have a legal guide on Avvo regarding wage garnishments and the claim of exemption, in the link below.

    Robert Stempler (please see DISCLAIMER below)

    NOTICE: If you do not have a signed attorney-client fee agreement with the Consumer Law Office of Robert Stempler,... more
  2. Joshua P Friedman

    Contributor Level 14

    Answered . Creditors can reach into any and all assets - checking accounts, savings accounts, CDs, stocks, bonds, etc. However, there are exemptions for retirement account - they are not absolutely exempt but generally exempt. Case law shows that the exemption is allowed so long as the retirement funds are needed for retirement purposes and you are not independently wealthy or have other sources of income upon retirement.

    Disclaimer of California Attorney
    Although the above response is believed to be accurate, it should not be relied upon as any type of legal advice because the information provided is incomplete. It is intended to educate the reader and a more definite answer should be based on a consultation with a lawyer. No attorney client relation is formed with me without a written contract.

    Joshua P. Friedman

    Disclaimer of California Attorney Although the above response is believed to be accurate, it should not be... more
  3. Theodore Lyons Araujo


    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . The 401k or IRA is protected but a judgment holder can sieze all of the other investments you listed.

    Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted in the States of New York, New Jersey and... more

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