A Texas Judgment Lien is the Starting Point
The truth of the matter is that collecting a judgment in Texas is difficult. There’s no getting around the fact that Texas is a great place to be a debtor because the law allows so many exemptions and protections for debtors. But, it isn’t impossible to collect a Texas judgment. It’s just a bit more challenging. You have to view it as a process. You have to start at the beginning and work through the process.
I find that the most overlooked step in the collecting process is securing a judgment lien. Making sure your judgment lien is in place is the second step I teach in my book How to Collect Your Own Judgment in Texas. The first step I teach is how to locate your judgment debtor. But, once you know where your debtor is located the very first step you need to take is getting the judgment lien in place. Without it, you’re missing out a very powerful tool.
What is a Judgment Lien?
A lien is a charge against property for the purpose of securing the payment of a debt. Basically, it attaches a debt to property. Then, when the property is sold the debt that is attached to the property by the lien must be paid. It is usually paid from the cash exchanging hands at the finalization of the property sale.
Your judgment is a debt. It is a debt you can use as the basis for creating a lien on your judgment debtor’s property. But, just having the judgment debt does not automatically create a lien. An automatic lien would be great but that’s not how it works in Texas. You have to take affirmative action to create a lien from your judgment.
How Do I Get a Judgment Lien?
It’s not difficult to create a lien from your judgment. You simply prepare an abstract of judgment and record it in the county records where you believe your judgment debtor may own or inherit property. For practical tips on other places to record an abstract of judgment, see the post Creating & Using a Texas Judgment Lien.
An abstract of judgment is actually a very simple document. Think of it as a summary of the judgment that states the amount owed on the judgment, including principle, interest, attorney’s fees and court costs. But, the abstract must be properly prepared to create your lien. You can prepare your own abstract of judgment if your judgment is in county court or district court. But, if your judgment is from a justice court or small claims court, the justice of the peace must prepare the abstract for you.
What Do I Do With The Abstract of Judgment?
Once you have a properly prepared abstract you take it to the county clerk for recording among the real property records of the county. The clerk will enter the abstract in an alphabetical index of judgment records. When that happens you have a judgment lien on any real property your debtor owns in the county where you recorded the abstract. There is, however, an exception to the lien for homestead property. Your abstract does not attach your judgment lien to your judgment debtor’s homestead.
What is the Life-Span of a Judgment Lien?
The judgment lien you create with the recording of an abstract of judgment stays in place for ten years. You can renew the judgment lien every 10 years.