Property Protected Even When You Have a Judgment Against You

By Jedidiah McKeehan

I see lots of people come to the courthouse who end up with a judgment against them for some reason or another.  Maybe they got behind on their credit card payments, maybe they took out a payday loan that they shouldn’t have taken, or maybe they couldn’t pay the medical bills they incurred.

So these individuals end up down at the courthouse, and they end up having a judgment against them for a few thousand dollars.  Once that judgment is entered, they may try to make payments on it or not.  A great number of people never even show up to court to defend themselves against the creditor seeking a judgment against them.  That may be because some people are what we call, “judgment proof.”  That means that even if they have a judgment against them, no one is ever going to collect anything from them because they do not have a job, they do not even have assets, and there is never going to be a single dollar collected from them on the debt they owe.

But what if you are not “judgment proof,” but you do not have much in the form of worldly possessions.  Can the person to whom you owe money take your few possessions to satisfy their judgment?  Well, yes and no.

According to Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) section 26-2-103, a debtor is able to protect up to $10,000.00 worth of personal property from being seized to satisfy a judgment.  This personal property can even include money in a bank.

How do you notify the court what you want protected?  TCA section 26-2-114 states that the person wanting to protect their property must make a list of the items they want protected and the items approximate value and file that list with the court.

Of note, there are certain items protected under Tennessee law which can never be seized to satisfy a judgment and are always protected.  They are: items of necessary wearing apparel for yourself and your family, trunks or other receptacle necessary to contain such apparel, family portraits, the family Bible and school books.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.


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