Monday, 12 August 2013

Getting Out of Debt Blog Series #2: Bankruptcy

There are thousands of Canadians facing a mountain of debt that can seem impossible to overcome. For many individuals, it can often seem as though there is nowhere to turn as far as getting out of debt – but there is hope. It never helps to ignore the problem or let the stress of high debt levels control your life. The second blog in our back-to-basics ‘getting out of debt blog series’ looks at bankruptcy, and can help you better understand if this might be the best solution for your financial woes.  

What is bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy in Canada is a legal process and is governed by federal law under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. Like a consumer proposal, a bankruptcy must be conducted by a licensed trustee in bankruptcy – you cannot negotiate one on your own. The role of a trustee is to ensure that both you and your creditors are protected, so they will negotiate the terms of your bankruptcy and administer it accordingly.

When you file for bankruptcy all of your assets, which include investments, property and your income, become the property of your trustee while you are “undischarged.” This means that if you have equity in your assets, or your income exceeds what is the allowable minimum, you will be subject to surplus income. Surplus income means that 50% of any income you earn over the prescribed minimum and 50% of any equity in assets will have to be paid to your estate to be distributed to your creditors by your trustee. During the undischarged period you will have reporting obligations to your trustee which includes reporting your income.

In Canada, and in the case of a first time bankruptcy – if there is no surplus income you will only remain undischarged for 9 months (if you meet any additional terms in your bankruptcy); if you have surplus income you will remain undischarged for at least 21 months. If, at the end of 21 months, you have not re-paid your surplus income into your estate you will remain undischarged until you do.

While bankrupt, additional terms in your bankruptcy will include not only disclosing income but also reporting on living arrangements, family situation, etc. You will also be required to attend credit counselling sessions and report any monies borrowed (over $500). 

To qualify for bankruptcy in Canada you must meet certain conditions, the foremost of which is that you must be insolvent. To be insolvent means that you owe at least $1000 and that you are unable to pay the debts as they are due.

Will filing for bankruptcy affect your credit? Yes, since your credit report is the document which contains all of your borrowing activity and credit behaviour. When you file for bankruptcy your credit score will change from being a number to being an “R” reject score until you rebuild your credit. The bankruptcy will show on your credit report for 6 years following discharge. That being said, if you are seriously considering filing for bankruptcy your credit has most likely already suffered, and so cleaning it up will take time.

Also, you can often qualify for credit within 2 years of being discharged from bankruptcy with up to 2 years of solid re-established credit.

Contrary to popular belief you can file for bankruptcy and keep your home and vehicle. Because the trustee represents you and your creditor it is important to have your own representation through the bankruptcy process. Bankruptcy can be complicated and having an expert in your corner will ensure that you are prepared for all eventual outcomes and don’t go to the trustee without already having your plan in place.

For more information about getting out of debt or to find out if you qualify to file for bankruptcy in Canada, please contact DebtCare Canada at 1-800-890-0888.

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