Skip to main content

What is Bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is often considered the last resort for people struggling with debt because there are other debt solutions to consider first. It is a legal declaration for people who cannot afford to pay their creditors. A state of Bankruptcy can be declared by creditors in an effort to reclaim in part money that is owed to them. A majority of Bankruptcy cases are initiated by the individuals who feel they cannot pay their debts.

Bankruptcy can occur when an individual’s debts are greater than his or her assets. Declaring bankruptcy means an individual is financially insolvent and can be relieved of outstanding debts. It is often considered as a last resort for people with serious and ongoing debt problems.

Key things you should know about Bankruptcy

  • Bankruptcy usually lasts for a year.
  • At the end of the bankruptcy period, most debts are ‘discharged’ (cancelled) but there are restrictions on obtaining credit and working in certain professions.
  • An Official Receiver is appointed to protect your assets and investigate the cause of your bankruptcy.
  • If you are declared bankrupt, you are no longer liable for any outstanding debts documented in the bankruptcy proceedings. This can give you peace of mind and alleviate stress.

The bankruptcy proceeding has two aims:

To free the individual from the pressures of creditors (people they owe money to) and to enable him or her to make a fresh start.

To ensure that all assets (such as property and investments) are distributed fairly among the creditors.

The Courts are officially responsible for making a bankruptcy order against an individual, although this is done at the request of either the individual or one of his/her creditors.

The assets of the bankrupt individual then fall under the control of a trustee. This will be either the Official Receiver (a civil servant and officer of the Court), or a licensed Insolvency Practitioner. Whoever is appointed becomes responsible for uncovering as much as possible about the debtors assets and liabilities and then maximising returns for the creditors from the assets available, within certain guidelines.

Once a bankruptcy order has been made against you your creditors can no longer pursue you for payment. Payment becomes the responsibility of the Trustee.

What are the disadvantages of bankruptcy?

  • No more credit
    Whilst you are bankrupt, you can’t apply for more credit.
  • Housing
    If you own your own home, it might have to be sold (but you may be able to apply to your local authority for re-housing).
  • Possessions
    Some of your possessions might have to be sold, for example, you will usually lose your car and any luxury items you own.
  • Employment
    Some professions don’t let people who have been made bankrupt carry on working.
  • Business
    If you own a business, it is more than likely that the Official Receiver will close down your business, dismiss your employees and sell off the assets.
  • Immigration
    Going bankrupt can affect your immigration status.
  • Bankruptcy restriction order
    Even when you are no longer bankrupt you could have another order, called a bankruptcy restriction order, made against you.These orders can be made, for example, where you did not co-operate with the Official Receiver, or you took on debts knowing that you had no hope of paying them back.They can last for 15 years and will make your financial affairs very restricted.
  • Debts
    Even when you are no longer bankrupt there are some debts such as court fines and student loans that will never be written off.
  • Exposure
    You cannot keep your bankruptcy private. All people subject to bankruptcy in the UK have their name advertised in two local newspapers and the London Gazette.
  • Court Examination
    You can be publicly examined in court.
  • Credit Rating
    Your credit rating will be damaged for a long time, up to 6 years.Bankruptcy is a severe consequence of debt and shouldn’t be entered into lightly. However, for some people bankruptcy may be the only solution.

Key Information and Fees

We do not charge for providing information, fees are only payable if you take up one of the debt solution. See Key Information and Fees

To find out more about managing your debt and receiving free debt advice visit Money Advice Service or you can get more information about how to deal with creditors if you are struggling with debt by reading Insolvency Service Guide