Attaching bank accounts; the sharpest tool in the shed
Imagine the following scenario: One of your parents has just died, and the money that you thought was left to you and your siblings is missing. You subsequently learn that sibling who had a joint bank account with the deceased parent (for the convenience of the parent) is not speaking with the rest of the family.
How do you track down the missing money, and how do you “lock down” the money so that you can ensure that any judgment you obtain will be collectible?
When family relationships are involved, it can often be easy to figure out where someone keeps their money. Sometimes a majority or even all of the funds still remain in the joint account. If the surviving joint account is not the executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate, the executor/administrator will come to learn the bank in which those funds are or were held. In other instances family members who have taken care of the deceased will have seen bank statements and can recall the bank from which statements were mailed to the decedent. Still others know the institutions where the surviving account holder has his/her accounts.
Once you have acquired that critical information, the next step is locking down the accounts. That process is known as the trustee process attachment. Trustee process attachments are liens that are placed on a bank account without notice to the account holder. The result of the attachment is that funds in the account are frozen pending the outcome of the case or a further order of the court. So, for example, if the defendant has $50,000 in their account and an attachment for $25,000 is allowed by the court, the defendant suddenly only has $25,000 that he/she can access; the other $25,000 must be set aside by the bank pursuant to the attachment order.
To be sure, courts do not casually allow attachments without notice. You have to show, through a signed affidavit and possibly relevant documents, that you are likely to prevail in the case, and that if the defendant were notified of the attachment, he/she would transfer the funds sought to be attached. But if granted, the attachment is extraordinarily powerful. If you win the case, you simply make a motion with the court to have the trustee pay the attached amount over to you (to the extent that the judgment equals or exceeds the amount attached). You can also attach multiple bank accounts (if you’re lucky enough to know more than one).