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November 9, 2022

Garnishing a Bank Account in Pennsylvania

How do you garnish a bank account in Pennsylvania? When you obtain a judgment against someone, your first question is usually, “How can I collect the money that is owed to me?” 

There are a number of ways to attempt execution on a judgment, but the fastest and easiest way to do so is to garnish the debtor’s bank account (if you know where the debtor banks, that is).


How To Garnish a Bank Account in Pennsylvania

• STEP 1 - File a Writ of Execution with the Prothonotary – Filing a writ of execution is not difficult. You will need to first file a “Praecipe for Writ of Execution.” This is filed with the Prothonotary (also called the “Department of Court Records” in Allegheny County) in the court located in the county where the bank, or any branches of such bank, are located. The form can be found at the following link. You will need to add on the bank’s formal name on the case caption as a “Garnishee.” Once the Praecipe for Writ of Execution is accepted for filing, the Prothonotary will issue the actual writ. The writ is your key to be able to execute.

• STEP 2 - Forward the Writ of Execution onto the Sheriff - You then need to contact the sheriff for service of the writ, which is required to be personally served to the bank. You will need to provide the following to the sheriff:

  • The Writ of Execution generated by the Prothonotary.
  • Sheriff service instructions. You will want to contact the local sheriff to obtain this form. 
  • Interrogatories in Aid of Execution. These will be served with the Writ to the bank. You can find these interrogatories at the following link.
  • In addition to these interrogatories, you should specifically ask how much money is currently in the bank account of the debtor.
  • A Claim for Exemption form. You can find these exemption forms at the local sheriff’s office. An exemption form allows the debtor to allege that certain funds in their bank account are exempt from collection.
  • A stamped envelope with the name and address of the debtor (this exemption form will be mailed from the sheriff to the debtor using this envelope).
  • A self-addressed stamped envelope for a return form generated by the sheriff showing that service was made.

• STEP 3 - Review the Responses to the Interrogatories from the Bank – The Garnishee bank has twenty days to respond to the interrogatories. Generally, banks will respond within the required time frame. However, if you do not receive responses in twenty days, you can do one or both of the following things: 

  • Call the bank – Believe it or not, sometimes a simple call to the bank will prompt a response. I have had an enormous amount of success in this area and would recommend taking this step first, as it’s less time-consuming than the alternative.
  • File a Motion to Compel Responses to the Interrogatories – this is the alternative. If the bank does not respond within twenty days and you are unable to get in touch with someone who can help you, you can file a Motion to Compel Responses to the Interrogatories. You will need to put together a Motion, telling the Judge that the bank was served with Interrogatories and failed to respond. You will want to review the local rules of the county the case is located in to understand the motions procedure, as the procedure is different in each county. 
  • Once you receive responses to the interrogatories, you will need to determine how much money is in the bank account. As indicated above, you should have added a question to the interrogatories asking, specifically, for the account balance at the time of service. If the balance is more than what you are owed, you may be able to collect your entire judgment amount. If the balance is less, you may be able to collect a portion of your judgment amount. 

• STEP 4 - Enter Judgment Against the Garnishee Bank – As long as no exemptions were filed, you can enter judgment against the Garnishee Bank. If you are owed less than the balance in the account, you will want to enter judgment for the entire amount owed (this can include the 6% post judgment interest which accrues from the time of judgment until it is paid). If you are owed more than the balance in the account, you can enter judgment for the total balance in the account (minus any exemptions). 

You can find a Praecipe to Enter Judgment form here.

Upon entering the judgment, you should receive a check from the bank in the amount you entered judgment for.

Additional Note: Remember that, in addition to any other such exemptions from collection which may exist, marital property is generally not collectible in Pennsylvania. Meaning – if you have a judgment against an individual only, but the bank account is in the individual’s name along with their spouse’s name, you will likely not be able to collect on this account. 

If you have questions concerning Pennsylvania debt collection or how to garnish a bank account in Pennsylvania, please feel free to reach out to me with any questions – jaclyn@pghfirm.com. 

Jaclyn M. DiPaola, Esq.

Jaclyn@pghfirm.com

Attorney Jaclyn M. DiPaola joined the firm as an attorney after becoming admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 2016. She became a partner at Flaherty Fardo Rogel & Amick in 2021. She specializes in debt collection cases, and also assists in personal injury and medical malpractice actions.

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