Mortgage Foreclosure and Taking of Other Assets

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if our house is being foreclosed, can they take our retirement or make us sell our cars?

we both have 2006 cars that are paid off. Can they take our cars or make us sell them to pay them some money?
Can they place a judgment to take our retirement 401k?

Depends upon the law in your state, and whether the loans you have are subject to recourse.

Here in California, purchase money loans are not subject to recourse. Providing you don't commit fraud or any of the other things that void this protection, once they take the property, that's it. If your loan was purchase money, used to buy the property, they shouldn't be able to win a deficiency judgment after foreclosure.

However, this isn't likely to be as innocent a situation as all that. Can't make the mortgage payment, but have two vehicles less than two years old which are all paid off? That says "cash out loan" to me!

I am unaware of any circumstance under which a "cash out" loan is not full recourse. It's not like you did it by accident. Now, if as I suspect may also have been the case, false promises were made to you as to your payment, interest rate, etcetera, that's a matter to take up with the people who did your loan. Actually, probably better to have your lawyer take it up with their lawyer. But that doesn't mean the current holder of that loan isn't entitled to their money.

If, as I suspect, you "cashed out" to pay for those cars, then you've got a full recourse loan, and they can pursue a deficiency judgment. Once they've got that, talk to a lawyer about whether they can get court approval to take your vehicles. But they're going to get the deficiency judgment if they try. That one is pretty cut and dried. Unless there's something reasonably unusual going on, for which consult a lawyer, you're likely to be better off agreeing to it in the first place, rather than forcing them to pay attorney's fees and having the judgment say you've got to pay their attorney fees as well as your own, in addition to the base deficiency. My understanding is that safe harbors for assets in this case are intentionally as few as the legislature can make them.

One of those few safe harbors, though, though, is likely to be retirement accounts. Retirement accounts are a protected asset class, and while I suppose it's possible for a creditor to get at them, I've never heard of a case of them being successful, at least not until you start withdrawing from those accounts. Once it gets withdrawn, of course, the money you withdraw is ordinary income, and therefore, fair game. This can lead to the sort of situation computer programmers call a deadly embrace. They can't get at the retirement account as long as the money is in there, you can keep the money in the retirement account, but if you try and withdraw it for use, they can then get at it. They can't get it until you try to use it, but they can get it if you do. Usually, people in this situation negotiate a settlement

Caveat Emptor

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on October 18, 2007 7:00 AM.

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