Money frozen in ice © Filipchuk Oleg/Shutterstock.com

Dear Bankruptcy Adviser,
How do I get my bank account unfrozen after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy?
— Allison

Dear Allison,
I can always tell when a question comes from someone who filed his or her own bankruptcy case. You can file without the assistance of an attorney, but you are responsible to handle everything like an attorney would. This question and answer will help a lot of people like you.

From your question, I will assume that a creditor had a judgment, received a court order and levied your bank account. The local sheriff served the court order on the bank and the bank, in turn, froze your account.

The bankruptcy filing does stop all creditor activity, but the bank doesn’t receive notification unless you mail, fax or call. Even with that notification, the bank will still wait for the sheriff or a court order to unfreeze the account. The same agency that notified the bank of the order to levy must also notify them to remove the levy.

You also need to send bankruptcy notification to the creditor who received the judgment. The creditor then must confirm you filed bankruptcy and send a notification either through the court or directly to the sheriff. That notification states that the creditor is aware of the bankruptcy and all collection activity must stop.

Getting the sheriff to notify the bank can take a while. Keep contacting them and eventually you will get in touch with someone able to confirm receipt of the creditor’s release. If this route seems to be a dead end, you might just have to wait for the bank to tell you the account is unfrozen.

In most cases, my clients tell me that the bank account has been unfrozen. I sometimes can’t even talk to anyone in the sheriff’s department. Some sheriff departments may have online services that allow you to see the status of your case from the judgment to the bank levy or wage garnishment. In Los Angeles County, without talking to anyone, I am able to monitor whether the sheriff has received notification.

Nevertheless, you are responsible to get the account unfrozen. No one else cares but you, so you must do the legwork.

Good luck.

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