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lien against dec spouse on joint property

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What is the name of your state? North Dakota

Husband died. Has a will, have filed to go thru informal probate, I am personal rep. Heirs are me and our 14-yo son. Husband had ch support arrearage to me, but son has been in foster care so state is assignee. We had married in 2002 after long term relationship (for a short time I had been on assistance and this resulted in support order. Once there is an order ND courts will not close it until parents are married or remarried). Arrears stopped accumulating at that point. We wanted to get order amended based on his disability (was in appeals at the time, disability was eventually made 8 years retroactive) but by the time we got SSA award letter he was deteriorating rapidly and a lot of stuff was happening. Meanwhile court decided to not enforce arrears due to his medical needs.

Few days after the funeral child support puts lien on my husband's bank account, overlooking fact it is joint account. They also placed lien on a stock account he had. They did not place lien on a trust account he also had that they were aware of (they had previously gotten an order to garnish trust disbursements). Child support attorney said he did not realize bank account was joint account but would not remove the lien. Stock account that also has lien has more money in it than the arrears amount to anyway.
The Ch Supp atty changed jobs a short while later. Replacement refuses to lift lien. I want access to joint account for household and estate expenses and decide later what assets to use for ch supp arrears. I asked for hearing to remove lien.

Meanwhile bank's attorney files motion with court saying ch supp people failed to provide certain letters required by state law so he asks the court to take over the money and decide how to handle this due to the competing interests of "ex-wife" (wrong, we were married and together, never were exes) and ch supp. Plus he wants $380 fees--from the account! I have until Dec 6 to file a protest to the court (it is the same judge assigned to the probate, maybe that will help).

When I found out about the lien I contacted the bank which asked for copy of death certificate. The idea was that the property would be determined to have reverted to me as of date of death and the lien would have been subsequent so ch supp would not have claim--lien specifies only husband's property, nothing about joint or my personal property.

So--lien preceded bank getting death certificate but death preceded lien. Will judge decide lien is valid? Will bank's lawyer get $380 from me?

Dandy Don

Senior Member
The lien is going to be valid no matter what, and since it is in the husband's name his estate (you as personal representative) are going to have the responsibility of seeing that it is paid off.

You should be consulting with a business law attorney about how this lien should be handled. Looks like the state did "overkill" in putting a lien on ALL of the assets, but they want to get paid from any asset possible and so they covered everything, when normally since it looks like there is enough money in the stock account to get paid, that is the only thing they should have put the lien on. If you have decided that you are going to put the stock up for sale to get a check, then your attorney should be able to negotiate with the state to tell them they will get paid when you get your check from the stock brokerage house and he should be able to reason with them to get them to take the lien off of the bank account if he can assure them that they will get their money.

Also your attorney will probably be able to persuade the court that the attorney services (who wants to charge $380) will not be needed since everthing is going to be handled during the probate process. And if you really need the money from the bank account to live on, then your attorney could also plead "hardship" or "financial need of a widow and her child" and the court will probably sympathize with your situation and release the lien, but you need to be consulting with your business law attorney to find out more information about how liens work and how they should be handled.

DANDY DON IN OKLAHOMA ([email protected])


feels so good!

Well, I went into the hearing I requested. The state's atty was there and the bank attorney, who the state's attorney had been chatting with. The judge said to the state's atty, "you can't do that!" The point being that when my husband died, joint assets became *my* assets, not estate assets, which is what I told the state's atty office all the time. The judge was also not too pleased by the fact that with one lien on assets belonging solely to my husband, of a value far greater than the money the state wanted, why would they need to put a lien on the bank accounts that now belonged to me as well? "Well, she owes us money too." BUT then they need to go thru the process to enforce debts in MY name where MY property is concerned. The state's atty wondered if they could then go thru probate. Fine, the judge said, do whatever you want, I'm not going to curtail the authority of another court" but ordered the lien on the bank accounts lifted immediately--and since I'm not a lawyer the state's attorney gets to write the order.

The state's atty tried to claim the motion as their own, but I corrected that misperception.

It was fun. And I can quit borrowing temporary cash from my 76-year-old mother to put gas in the car.

The bank atty and state's atty are technically not on the same side but were certainly buddy-buddy. The bank atty has a hearing scheduled for Dec on the lien (which is now moot) but also wants $380 which he says is a nominal amount what with all te confusion created by the state and the bank needing to defend itself from competing interests. Of course, the bank only wanted to collect from moi, and I had not gone so far as to make any written request for access to funds in the accounts. The nice tellers had reversed a transaction when I tried to deposit checks and take out cash, and since then they let me cash memorial checks without reference to the account numbers (until my mom loaned me some temp cash so I could start an account in my own name), so at the bank's hearing--unless they withdraw--they would have to explain how, to defend themselves from "competing interests", they wanted money out of the only interest that had not caused them any trouble (defending themselves against what I might do in the future, apparently--at my expense?)

I've heard judges say "it's not fair" as a kind of sympathy gesture, but this is the first time I have had the pleasure of my judge announcing "that's not fair!" as she rules in my favor.


Senior Member
It sounds like everything worked out! If you didn't sign anything with the bank, take all of YOUR money out of that bank and deposit it into another. They can ask all they want, unless you signed something or are ordered by a court to pay them, they can go fly a kite.

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