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Bankruptcy - is This Your only Way Out?
by Michael Wentworth
What is bankruptcy, and how does it affect you? The term bankruptcy literally means "broken bench". In days gone by, when a debtor couldn't pay his/her bills, they would break his/her workbench in two as a warning to other tradespeop

What is bankruptcy, and how does it affect you?

The term bankruptcy literally means "broken bench". In days gone by, when a debtor couldn't pay his/her bills, they would break his/her workbench in two as a warning to other tradespeople and to punish the debtor.

Today, bankruptcy is a tool that can legally help your business to survive or allow you to discharge the debts of your business.

Are your business debts overwhelming you? Are you worried about how you’re going to pay your staff and bills next week? Are you seriously starting to think about bankruptcy as a possible solution to your woes? Well, before you take what is basically an irreversible step, be totally clear on what bankruptcy is and how it affects you for now as well as long term.

Bankruptcy is a way of dealing with the debts you cannot pay. It should only be looked at by you as the business owner in a situation where you have made every effort to keep your business floating and pay your creditors, but without success.

Only contemplate it when you believe that you cannot meet your ongoing financial liabilities and you are sure your financial position is unable to be salvaged. Becoming bankrupt is a very serious decision and you must only approach it as a last resort.

If your business is in danger of heading into problems that could lead to its demise, or your financial worries are such that it may lead to your business or personal bankruptcy, then seek urgent advice from an experienced lawyer and accountant as soon as possible.


Because there may be other options available to you that would avoid bankruptcy and help resolve your financial dilemma.

Bankruptcy may offer you relief from most of your debts but remember, you will be subject to many restrictions and limitations. As well you lose ownership of your property to a court official known as the Official Assignee.

Filing for bankruptcy is not the only way out of your precarious situation. If you can work out an arrangement with your creditors without having to go to court, then do so as you would be much better off. In court, your "dirty laundry" may become revealed for everyone to see and that can be embarrassing.

So what is the best way to AVOID bankruptcy?

Firstly, be clear on your financial situation? Are you insolvent? Insolvency means that what you owe (your liabilities) are more than what you own (your assets). That is, your money isn't coming in fast enough to meet your bills when they fall due.

Secondly, investigate all other options.

Here are 9 alternatives to filing for Bankruptcy:

Sell off assets
If you are getting financially strapped and starting to run into serious money problems then consider selling off assets you may have to clear your bills.

Reduce your costs
If things are starting to look precarious, then be realistic. See what you can do to reduce all expenditure and get all non-essential costs out of the way. For example, if you have goods on hire purchase that you cannot afford, then let the goods be repossessed and stop the continuing payments

Budgeting means sitting down with an adviser, such as an accountant, and working out a plan to enable you to live and progressively pay off all debts. A good budget strictly adhered to, would soon pull you "out of the cart" if you are prepared.

You may like to look at refinancing some assets and using the surplus cash to pay off creditors who can cause problems by lodging a creditor's petition for bankruptcy if they are not happy.

Creditor's pool.
You can always try and arrange with your creditors to clear up their debts by instalment payments. Here you will need to see all your creditors and create a creditors pool, run by an accountant or solicitor. You will pay a certain amount of money into the pool and that money can be distributed to the creditors until their debts are paid.

You can reach an agreement with your creditors on a proposition where their debts can be fully settled. There are a number of ways to agree on a compromise with creditors.

Instalment Order.
This is an order made by a Court allowing you to pay back debts in easy stages without the threat of further legal action, while that order is in force. This is probably a good option, because it forces your creditors to accept the arrangement as long as someone the court appoints properly monitors it.

Continue trading.
If your business is temporarily insolvent then you should look at ways where it can still continue trading and hopefully generate good cash flow to meet your commitments. If you can, it is good to trade your way out of your financial difficulties. Most businesses can do this unless they are so far gone that recovery is impossible. For you to continue trading it is recommended that you talk to a professional adviser who can act as a guidance counsellor or coach, so you don't get into deeper problems.

If you have tried all other actions and they have not been successful or agreed to by your creditors, then you should consider filing for voluntary bankruptcy in order to stop the deterioration of the situation.

If you can avoid bankruptcy in any way at all - do so. If all else fails and it looks like you or your business is at the end of the road – talk to an accountant and lawyer immediately.

Best of luck.

Copyright 2005

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