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What is bankruptcy? Bankruptcy explained

Going bankrupt? What is bankruptcy and are there any positives that can be taken from it? What are the disadvantages and how will it impact my credit score and ability to get credit in the future?

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What is bankruptcy? Bankruptcy explained
What is bankruptcy? Bankruptcy explained

Use our guide to learn more about bankruptcy, the alternatives to declaring bankruptcy, the drawbacks and the positives of bankruptcy.

What does bankruptcy mean?

Bankruptcy is a court order that you can apply for if you're in overwhelming debt. If you are declaring bankruptcy the court will take charge of your assets and use them to take care of your creditors and your debt.

Declaring bankruptcy brings penalties and long-term damage to your credit rating, so it is seen as a last resort. In some cases, those you owe money to may apply to make you declare bankruptcy.

This guide will answer many of your bankruptcy questions and help you to understand whether declaring bankruptcy an appropriate option for you.

Advantages of bankruptcy

There are some reasons to declare bankruptcy:

  • Your creditors will be prevented from contacting you or taking court action against you.

  • You'll have enough money to live on and you'll be allowed to keep certain things.

  • The money you owe can usually be written off.

  • You can make a fresh start when your bankruptcy order is over.

Drawbacks of bankruptcy

Declaring bankruptcy is a big decision, and it has some disadvantages:

  • You may have to pay over £700 to go bankrupt, not including solicitors' fees.

  • Your bank accounts and credit cards will be closed.

  • Your bankruptcy will appear in the press and on the internet.

  • You may have to sell your home, and any valuable items that you own.

  • Any business you own will be closed and your employees will be dismissed. In some professions you may not be allowed to carry on working.

  • Bankruptcy can affect your immigration status.

  • You'll lose any assets you gain during the term of your bankruptcy. This includes inheritances and growth in the value of your home.

  • Court fines and student loans won't be written off after bankruptcy.

  • After bankruptcy, you'll find it difficult to get credit.

You should think over these advantages and disadvantages and you may so you may want to look at other options like an IVA or Debt Relief Order before you decide if bankruptcy is right for you.

Questions to ask before your credit card application, goals and £20 notes

Declaring bankruptcy

Before you decide to approach the court, you'll need to fully understand the consequences of filing for bankruptcy. It's best to seek out an expert who can give you advice on bankruptcy and answer any questions you have.

1. Get the paperwork

 You need to complete two forms: a bankruptcy petition and a statement of affairs. These are both available from your local court or online.

2. List your creditors

You will need to list all your creditors and your building society and bank details, as well as details of any valuables you own.

3. Fees

You will need to pay a non-refundable fee of £525. You may also need to pay a fee of £180 - though the court might reduce this or say that you don't have to pay it.

4. Court appearance 

You need to go to your local court and swear an affidavit to say you've told the truth on the forms, after which you may need to attend a court hearing.

5. Bankruptcy 

The courts may either reject your application or make a bankruptcy order. In some cases the court might recommend a better solution to your debt problem.

All your accounts will then be frozen. Your assets will be sold to repay your debts. The court representative (the Official Receiver) will notify your creditors and take care of the administration of your debts.

7. Your assets and family

If you live in your home with your partner or children, the Official Receiver may delay the sale of your home for a year. There are also options for your partner, spouse, relative or friend to buy the 'beneficial interest' in your home (the interest in the proceeds from the sale of the property).

Life after bankruptcy

Many people feel ashamed about going bankrupt, and it can be an anxious and stressful time.

However, it is important to remember that going bankrupt is not the end of the world - even though it may feel like it at the time - because you are taking control of your debts and making a move towards getting your life back on track. Find out more about coping with debt emotionally.

When your bankruptcy's over you'll be free from the debts you took into bankruptcy and able to make a fresh start. While you may be able to get credit, you'll probably find it difficult as you'll appear as 'high risk' to your creditors. It may also be difficult to get a mortgage.

Alternatives to bankruptcy

Bankruptcy may not suit your particular circumstances so it's important to get as much information on bankruptcy as you can. Organisations like the Citizen's Advice Bureau, CCCS or National Debtline can give you impartial advice.

The other options available include Individual Voluntary ArrangementsAdministration OrdersDebt Relief Orders or Debt Management Plans.

For more guidance see the government's comprehensive guide to bankruptcy.