Swift Justice: Eviction, wills and judgment collection

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Dear Jackie,

I have a tenant that I am in the process of evicting. The judge ruled in my favor for restitution. The tenant is making no effort to leave the premises, and I am in the process of having him removed by a constable through the courts. The tenant has no job, no assets and gets Social Security disability. How can I garnish his SS income? I was told by several credible persons that Social Security disability can only be garnished for child support and back taxes. There is a principle here that this tenant shouldn't be permitted to do whatever he wants because he knows he gets disability and feels like he's above the law. I would just appreciate restitution for what is rightfully mine and what a court ordered him to do. What about my rights as a landlord? -- Dave from Emmaus, Pa.

Hi, Dave,

You are not going to be able to garnish the tenant's Social Security disability payments; they are exempt under the law. The federal government can collect that money for back taxes, and it can be used to pay back some things such as child support. Get the tenant out, and accept that you will not be able to collect your back rent. Make sure any future tenant has other sources of income. Your rights as a landlord are balanced against the necessity for someone to receive support due to a disability.

Dear Jackie,

I have a will that was done by a lawyer and filed. I now want to change parts of it but can't afford to go back to the lawyer. Can I make the revisions myself and have it witnessed? Do the revisions have to be filed with the court? I would very much appreciate your help. Thanks. -- Rosanne from Plantation, Fla.

Hi, Rosanne,

First of all, the original will should not have been filed anywhere. Wills are not filed until after you are deceased. In Florida, you can revise your will without having to go back to the attorney. You cannot change what is written on the original will, and you should not mark out anything on that document -- that would make it invalid. You can handwrite a "codicil," or an amendment to the original, and it should contain the changes you wish to make. It must be witnessed by 2 people and signed by you. If you want it notarized that is fine. A codicil is executed the same as a will. This is the law in Florida. You should then keep the original and the codicil in a safe place and make sure the executor who will be handling your estate knows the location of these documents.

Dear Jackie,

I read your column and appreciate the great advice you provide. I am currently in need of advice. I was awarded a judgment in 2009 for $12,000 in Rockdale County, Ga., for an amount owed to me by an individual in a civil matter. The individual has yet to pay a single dime on the judgment. I went back to court in 2009 to obtain a writ of fieri facias based on guidance from my prepaid legal attorney. I still have not received any payment from the defendant. What are my options for recovering the judgment? My attorney said I would need to hire a debt collection company or an asset finder to get any recovery. If that is the case, how do I find a reputable asset finder or collection agency? There seems to be a proliferation of them on the Internet. Thanks for your assistance! -- Alex from Newport News, Va.

Hi, Alex,

Thanks for being a fan of the column. The first question I have for you is, does the defendant have any assets? If so, are they attachable? You need to answer those questions before you hire someone to collect on the judgment. If the defendant is judgment proof, why spend the money to pursue him? Now, how do you get that information? Ask friends if they have used one of these services, or check with the Better Business Bureau. A good private investigator can also provide this information. That will cost you money, but the size of the judgment may justify using a professional. I agree, the information on the Internet is overwhelming, and you will want to use a company that will actually get you the information you need.

(Jackie Glass is a lawyer and former district court judge from Las Vegas, Nev., who is the new host of CBS's daytime legal affairs program, "Swift Justice With Jackie Glass." Visit http://www.SwiftJustice.com for more information, local show times and to submit your legal questions to Jackie.)

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