If you decide that declaring bankruptcy is the right way to manage your debts, the Official Receiver will soon become an important part of your life – even if you never deal with them directly. This article from bankruptcy experts, Bankruptcy Clinic, explains who the Official Receiver is and what their duties will be once your Bankruptcy Order has been made.
Who is the Official Receiver?
The Official Receiver (OR) is a civil servant who works for the government-run Insolvency Service. They’ll be told about your Bankruptcy Order as soon as it’s been made against you. The OR appointed to your bankruptcy will be based in one of 33 offices throughout the UK.
What happens when the Bankruptcy Order is in place?
The OR will take responsibility for administering your bankruptcy. This includes taking control of your property and assets, and investigating the circumstances that led to your bankruptcy. The investigation will involve looking closely at your financial situation and also examining your conduct to find out if your bankruptcy is the result of your own behaviour (for example, by running up gambling debts), or if you’ve broken any laws.
When will I be told about the investigation?
You’ll hear from the OR within two working days of your Bankruptcy Order. They’ll explain what will happen next regarding your investigation. In most cases, this will be a written questionnaire and a phone interview with the OR or their appointed representative. However, you may be asked to attend a face to face interview if your case is complex or the OR suspects you of financial misconduct or criminal activity.
What will the questionnaire involve?
The questionnaire is similar to the Statement of Affairs that you’ll have filled out if you petitioned for your own bankruptcy. You’ll need to set out full details of your financial circumstances, including your debts, income and outgoings, and any assets or property that you own. You must return the questionnaire to the OR’s office by the requested date.
What will happen during the interview?
You’ll either speak on the phone or meet in person with the OR or a member of their team. The interview will take from 30 minutes to around three hours, depending on the circumstances surrounding your bankruptcy. Most interviews are straightforward and will start by confirming the details provided on your questionnaire.
You may then be asked to provide further information about your finances, if this is required, along with an explanation of how your bankruptcy came about. If the OR suspects misconduct or criminal activity, you’ll also be asked about this.
The interview is also an opportunity for you to ask questions about your bankruptcy and what you can expect to happen next.
What happens after the interview?
If your bankruptcy is straightforward, the OR will use the results of your questionnaire and interview to decide how to deal with your estate. For example, they’ll consider whether your interest in any valuable assets such as property, antiques or cars should be sold for the benefit of your creditors. They’ll also assess your income and outgoings to decide if you can make a lump sum or regular payments to your creditors.
The OR will also tell all your creditors about your bankruptcy, arrange for details of your bankruptcy to be published in the London Gazette (the Edinburgh Gazette for Scottish bankruptcies) and inform the Land Registry.
What is a creditors’ meeting?
The OR may arrange a meeting with your creditors to discuss your bankruptcy. If this happens, you’re obliged to attend. The aim of the meeting is to appoint a licensed Insolvency Practitioner, known as a Trustee, to manage your estate. If a Trustee isn’t appointed, the OR will take on this role.
What does the Trustee or OR do with my estate?
It will be their responsibility to control your estate, realise any saleable assets and make sure these are sold for a fair price, and to distribute the proceeds fairly amongst your creditors. They’ll also be responsible for reassessing your financial situation if this changes during your bankruptcy period, for example, if you receive a windfall.
What happens if I don’t cooperate with the OR or Trustee?
You’re legally obliged to cooperate with the OR or Trustee at all times. If you don’t, you could be ordered to attend a public examination to explain your financial circumstances, be arrested, and even be fined or sent to prison. The court also has other powers if you don’t cooperate, or if you acted unlawfully before your bankruptcy. These include confiscating your passport, redirecting your mail to the OR’s office and imposing a Bankruptcy Restrictions Order for up to 15 years.
Where can I find out more?
For more information about the role of the OR, or any other aspect of bankruptcy, contact Bankruptcy Clinic. You can call us on 0808 168 7389 or 01625 462 770 or drop us an email with your questions.