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Writ of Fieri FaciasNo, I’m not talking about the international soccer club or that guy on Food Network with the annoyingly frosted tips.

A Writ of Fieri Facias is simply the document issued by the county clerk’s office to record a lien on all your property within that county.  This includes both real (like your house) and personal (like your car) property.  It is essentially a fancy legal term for a judgment lien.  If you have a judgment lien out there, I can find it and strip it off all your property with either a Chapter 7  or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

You can only have a FIFA recorded against you if you have been sued. First, the sheriff or some private process server will come to your door and hand you a large envelope with a stack of papers in them called the summons and complaint.  The summons gives you instructions on when you need to file a formal legal answer to the complaint against you.  The receipt of these papers is called “getting served.”  If you do not file a proper answer, the creditor suing you can ask the court to enter a Default Judgment against you.  If this happens, shortly thereafter, a Writ of Fieri Facias can be filed for the requested amount that the creditor is trying to recover from you.  This amount will continue to accrue interest at the statutory rate for as long as it remains unpaid, which will make it very difficult to ever pay off in the future.

Fortunately, in either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, I can avoid the judgment lien (FIFA) on any household goods that are exempt under applicable state law.  Most people’s property will be fully exempt, or protected, in a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Also, if you own real property that already has a mortgage on it, that mortgage will likely be worth more than the value of the property. For instance, if your house is worth $150,000, and you owe the bank $140,000, you $10,000 of equity.  If Midland Funding or some other debt buyer sues you, you choose not to defend it, and they pop you with a $20,000 writ of fieri facias, they can potentially do a sheriff’s sale on your home and take the $10,000 in equity you have.

But, if you file bankruptcy, your Georgia bankruptcy exemptions will allow you to protect that entire $10,000 in equity, meaning that we can avoid that FIFA completely. This will turn a secured debt (a debt that is secured by some collateral, such as your house or car) in to an unsecured debt (debt that is not secured by anything but a promise to pay, like credit cards or medical bills).

If you want to figure out how much your home is worth, check out Zillow.com and your local tax assessor. Those are good starting places, and many Atlanta bankruptcy judges will accept valuations from these two sources.