What Property Can I Protect from Judgment Creditor Seizure in Texas?
Much of a judgment debtor's property in Texas is exempt (in other words, safe) from seizure by creditors, even those with a judgment. The property designated as exempt is set out in Chapters 41 and 42 of the Texas Property Code.
In short, a debtor's home is protected from creditor seizure except for mortgage note lenders or taxing authorities, or construction lien claimants who perfected a homestead mechanic's lien contract. Retirement plans and life insurance is exempt from creditor seizure. For a single person, $30,000, and for a married person, $60,000 of personal property is exempt from seizure. Cash in bank accounts or under your mattress is not exempt.
Section 41.001 of the Texas Property Code exempts a person's homestead from seizure by creditors. Property Code sections 42.001 and 42.002 exempt certain personal property from seizure by creditors. If a sheriff or constable were to come to your home to execute on a judgment, you can designate to the sheriff or constable what property is exempt from seizure.
The full text of these Property Code sections is set out below.
V.T.C.A., Property Code Section 41.001
Section 41.001. Interests in Land Exempt from Seizure
(a) A homestead and one or more lots used for a place of burial of the dead are exempt from seizure for the claims of creditors except for encumbrances properly fixed on homestead property. (b) Encumbrances may be properly fixed on homestead property for: (1) purchase money; (2) taxes on the property; (3) work and material used in constructing improvements on the property if contracted for in writing as provided by Sections 53.254(a), (b), and (c); (4) an owelty of partition imposed against the entirety of the property by a court order or by a written agreement of the parties to the partition, including a debt of one spouse in favor of the other spouse resulting from a division or an award of a family homestead in a divorce proceeding; (5) the refinance of a lien against a homestead, including a federal tax lien resulting from the tax debt of both spouses, if the homestead is a family homestead, or from the tax debt of the owner; (6) an extension of credit that meets the requirements of Section 50(a)(6), Article XVI, Texas Constitution; or (7) a reverse mortgage that meets the requirements of Sections 50(k)-(p), Article XVI, Texas Constitution. (c) The homestead claimant's proceeds of a sale of a homestead are not subject to seizure for a creditor's claim for six months after the date of sale.
V.T.C.A., Property Code Section 42.001
Section 42.001. Personal Property Exemption
(a) Personal property, as described in Section 42.002, is exempt from garnishment, attachment, execution, or other seizure if: (1) the property is provided for a family and has an aggregate fair market value of not more than $60,000, exclusive of the amount of any liens, security interests, or other charges encumbering the property; or (2) the property is owned by a single adult, who is not a member of a family, and has an aggregate fair market value of not more than $30,000, exclusive of the amount of any liens, security interests, or other charges encumbering the property. (b) The following personal property is exempt from seizure and is not included in the aggregate limitations prescribed by Subsection (a): (1) current wages for personal services, except for the enforcement of court-ordered child support payments; (2) professionally prescribed health aids of a debtor or a dependent of a debtor; (3) alimony, support, or separate maintenance received or to be received by the debtor for the support of the debtor or a dependent of the debtor; and (4) a religious bible or other book containing sacred writings of a religion that is seized by a creditor other than a lessor of real property who is exercising the lessor's contractual or statutory right to seize personal property after a tenant breaches a lease agreement for or abandons the real property. (c) Except as provided by Subsection (b)(4), this section does not prevent seizure by a secured creditor with a contractual landlord's lien or other security in the property to be seized. (d) Unpaid commissions for personal services not to exceed 25 percent of the aggregate limitations prescribed by Subsection (a) are exempt from seizure and are included in the aggregate. (e) A religious bible or other book described by Subsection (b)(4) that is seized by a lessor of real property in the exercise of the lessor's contractual or statutory right to seize personal property after a tenant breaches a lease agreement for the real property or abandons the real property may not be included in the aggregate limitations prescribed by Subsection (a).
V.T.C.A., Property Code Section 42.002
Section 42.002. Personal Property
(a) The following personal property is exempt under Section 42.001(a): (1) home furnishings, including family heirlooms; (2) provisions for consumption; (3) farming or ranching vehicles and implements; (4) tools, equipment, books, and apparatus, including boats and motor vehicles used in a trade or profession; (5) wearing apparel; (6) jewelry not to exceed 25 percent of the aggregate limitations prescribed by Section 42.001(a); (7) two firearms; (8) athletic and sporting equipment, including bicycles; (9) a two-wheeled, three-wheeled, or four-wheeled motor vehicle for each member of a family or single adult who holds a driver's license or who does not hold a driver's license but who relies on another person to operate the vehicle for the benefit of the nonlicensed person; (10) the following animals and forage on hand for their consumption: (A) two horses, mules, or donkeys and a saddle, blanket, and bridle for each; (B) 12 head of cattle; (C) 60 head of other types of livestock; and (D) 120 fowl; and (11) household pets. (b) Personal property, unless precluded from being encumbered by other law, may be encumbered by a security interest under Subchapter B, Chapter 9, Business & Commerce Code, or Subchapter F, Chapter 501, Transportation Code, or by a lien fixed by other law, and the security interest or lien may not be avoided on the ground that the property is exempt under this chapter.