State Exemption Laws Can Protect Older Adults’ Assets

Older adults are entering retirement with more debt, including credit card and student loan debt, than in past decades. Those with fixed incomes and dwindling resources are experiencing problems repaying that debt and face aggressive debt collection measures. A collector may file a lawsuit and win (often by default), advises Jeremiah Battle and Odette Williamson of the National Consumer Law Center. The court will then enter a judgment against the debtor. The judgment gives the collector the right to force the debtor to pay using a variety of methods. In theory, a debt collector may be able to seize a car, home or other property after securing a court judgment, Battle and Williamson said. However, in practice, state and federal law dramatically limit its ability to do so. Every state has laws that protect a variety of income and property from judgment creditors. These laws are called “exemption laws.” Exemption laws are designed to ensure that debtors do not become completely destitute from the payment of debts and to preserve some small amount property for the basic necessities of living. What follows is information provided by Battle and Williamson on exemption [...]

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3/9/18 5:59 PM

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