What Exactly is an Abstract of Judgment?

Bruce W. Akerly
Oct 15 2019

I cannot tell you how many clients do not know or understand the existence or purpose of an abstract of judgment. Many confuse abstracts of judgment with lis pendens. They are quite different.

An abstract of judgment is a summary of a judgment that is prepared by the clerk of the court and then recorded in the property records of the county in which the judgment debtor is believed to own or have an interest in real property. An abstract of judgment only applies to real property. The recording of an abstract of judgment creates a lien on any property owned by the judgment debtor in the county in which the abstract of judgment is recorded. While it may create a lien, however, it is only effective as against non-exempt interests in real property and falls behind other liens already in place at the time.

A lis pendens, on the other hand, is a document created by a party to litigation that typically involves a claim that may impact the rights of parties to real property. While lis pendens are recorded in the real property records of the county in which litigation is pending or real property at issue in the litigation may be located, it does not create a lien. Rather, it serves to provide notice to anyone who may be interested in or taking an interest in certain property that there may be an issue with respect to the transferor’s ability to transfer the property or provide clear title.