Execution Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Execution, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Execution?

n. 1) the act of getting an officer of the court to take possession of the property of a losing party in a lawsuit (judgment debtor) on behalf of the winner (judgment creditor), sell it and use the proceeds to pay the judgment. The procedure is to take the judgment to the clerk of the court and have a writ of execution issued which is taken to the sheriff (or marshal, constable or other authorized official) with instructions on what property to execute upon. In the case of real property the official must first levy (place a lien on the title), and then execute upon it (seize it). However, the judgment debtor (loser in the lawsuit) may pay the judgment and costs before sale to redeem real estate. 2) carrying out a death sentence.

History and Meaning of Execution

Execution is a legal term that has been used in various ways throughout history. Its original meaning is to carry out a decision or order, particularly a legal one. In modern legal language, execution refers to the act of taking possession of the property of a judgment debtor on behalf of a judgment creditor, and selling it to pay off the judgment.

Examples of Execution

  1. A court orders the seizure of a judgment debtor's car and sells it to pay off their debt to the judgment creditor.
  2. An individual is sentenced to death for a crime and the state carries out the execution by lethal injection.
  3. A company obtained a judgment against a debtor, and they obtained a writ of execution to seize the debtor's property, including their stock holdings and personal assets to repay the debt.

Legal Terms Similar to Execution

  1. Garnishment: A legal procedure that allows a creditor to take the debtor's property or wages to pay off a debt.
  2. Attachment: A judicial order that allows the seizure of a debtor's property to secure payment of a debt pending trial.
  3. Levy: The process of legally seizing property to satisfy a debt, usually by a taxing authority or other governmental agency.