What Happens to Judgment Enforcement upon Death?

Statutes relating to enforcement of money judgments require careful reading and analysis. Judges often disagree about application of some statutes, in part due to confusing wording.

But the below seems to fairly summarize CPLR § 5208 [Enforcement after death of judgment debtor; leave of court; extension of lien].

In New York, the death of a judgment debtor triggers surrogate jurisdiction over the debtor's assets unless:

  1. An execution has already been issued on a properly docketed judgment lien against real property; or
  2. A "levy" to take personal property is already in process.

Prior to death, any judgment-related activity falling short of the above will be stayed until a personal representative is appointed over the debtor's estate. If no such representative is sought within 18 months, the judgment creditor may seek permission from the underlying court to take further steps to enforce the judgment.

But a judgment lien already existing against the decedent's real property will remain a judgment until the later of 1) two years after death or 2) ten years after filing of the judgment roll.

The policy behind this statute is protection of the debtor's estate, protection of other creditors by investigating lien priority (for example, funeral expenses and tax debt are higher priority liens), and ensuring fair play.

Call us if you have any questions relating to enforcement of money judgments. We mainly represent consumers suffering from frozen bank accounts and wage garnishments.

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