The Official Receiver is a civil servant in The Insolvency Service and is an officer of the court and acts as the bankrupt’s trustee unless the court appoints an Insolvency Practitioner (IP) to take that role. Once a Bankruptcy Order is made against you, the court notifies the Official Receiver who immediately takes over the responsibility for administering your bankruptcy including the tasks of protecting your assets and investigating the causes of your bankruptcy.
As a bankrupt, you have a duty to comply with the Official Receiver’s request to provide information about your financial affairs, including attending for interview as and when asked. You can obtain more information about your duties from your local Official Receiver’s office or from the website of The Insolvency Service www.bis.gov.uk/insolvency For Northern Ireland look up the website of The Insolvency Service of Northern Ireland www.detini.gov.uk
The Official Receiver’s staff will contact you immediately if they know that action is urgently needed in relation to your assets. Otherwise they will contact you within two days of receiving the Bankruptcy Order. Usually they will arrange an appointment for you to attend the Official Receiver’s office for interview, normally on a date that is convenient for you and for them. Alternatively the Official Receiver may suggest a telephone interview in circumstances where you have presented your own bankruptcy petition, you have not recently traded, you have not previously been made bankrupt and where a telephone number for you is available. If you are offered a telephone interview but would prefer to be interviewed in person, you should tell the Official Receiver. Whether your interview is in person or by telephone, you will receive a letter from the Official Receiver setting out what is required of you and you may be required to complete a questionnaire. If you have presented your own bankruptcy petition, you may be interviewed by the Official Receiver at court or at the Official Receiver’s office, directly following the making of the Bankruptcy Order.
Before the interview with the Official Receiver, you should prepare thoroughly. Start by telephoning to confirm the appointment; inform the Official Receiver by telephone if there are any matters that need to be sorted out urgently or if you need more time to collect paperwork or accounting records requested by the Official Receiver; tell the Official Receiver if you need to rearrange the appointment; advise them if you have any infirmity or disability or other difficulty which may require special facilities during the interview. Fill in the questionnaire, if you have been asked to complete one, making a note of any points you do not understand. Collect all financial records, paperwork and any other information you will need for the interview, including accounting records, letters, statements, bank records, HP agreements and credit card statements. If you are having a telephone interview, you will be required to return the completed questionnaire by a fixed date. If you are to be interviewed in person, make sure that you bring the completed questionnaire with you together with all the requested paperwork and information to the interview location.
It is important that you co-operate fully with the Official Receiver and his or her staff. Failure to do so could mean a court appearance for questioning and could even be arrested for failing to co-operate.
An interview in person may take two to three hours. Your questionnaire will be checked by an examiner, a member of the Official Receiver’s staff, who will go into the details of your assets and debts and the facts and circumstances that led to your insolvency. You should hand over all your financial records and papers for examination and recording by the Official Receiver, who will retain them. You should avail of the opportunity to ask any questions you have about the proceedings or your case, when at the Official Receiver’s office.
A telephone interview will usually last at least half an hour. The examiner telephones you at the agreed date and time, checks with you the information you have provided in the questionnaire (if you have been asked to provide one), asks for any necessary additional information about your assets and debts, questions you about the facts and circumstances that led to your insolvency, deals with any queries you may have about the proceedings or your case and tells you if you need to supply any further information relating to your affairs.
Occasionally, a second interview may be necessary if the examiner needs more time to complete enquiries into your affairs or if you cannot or do not provide all the financial records requested or needed by the Official Receiver, or if the examiner needs more details of your assets, debts and financial affairs or if you do not turn up for any appointment.
After the interview the Official Receiver checks the information you have provided and issues a report to your creditors within twelve weeks of the date the Bankruptcy Order was made, setting out your assets and debts. If you have material assets the Official Receiver may seek the appointment of an Insolvency Practitioner (IP) to act as trustee and deal with the realization and distribution of your assets. If an IP is appointed as trustee you will need to help the IP to deal with your affairs by tendering your full co-operation. The complexity of your case determines how long the process lasts. If you have provided all the required information and there are no problems encountered in dealing with your assets the process can be over relatively shortly.
Your bankruptcy may be over in twelve months or less, if the Official Receiver concludes his or her enquiries and files a notice in court. You may then be discharged from your bankruptcy even though the trustee may be continuing to deal with your assets for several years after your discharge. You may also be subject to an Income Payments Order or an Income Payments Agreement even after your discharge and up to three years from when the Bankruptcy Order was made.
If you fail to co-operate with the Official Receiver, or with your trustee in bankruptcy or if you are to blame in some way for your bankruptcy or your conduct has been dishonest you may be subject to a bankruptcy restrictions order. In our next article, we will look at the problems that the Official Receiver and/or the trustee encounter with bankrupts who are to blame for their own bankruptcy, who withhold co-operation or who are dishonest and we will look at the consequences of such behavior for such bankrupts.
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