What is bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal process where you're declared unable to pay your debts. It can release you from most debts, provide relief and allow you to make a fresh start.

You can enter into voluntary bankruptcy. We refer to this as a debtor's petition. It's also possible that someone you owe money to (a creditor) can make you bankrupt through a court process. We refer to this as a creditor's petition.

Bankruptcy normally lasts for 3 years and 1 day.

Bankruptcy trustee

When you become bankrupt we appoint a trustee. A trustee is a person or body who manages your bankruptcy.

This can either be the Official Trustee (AFSA) or a registered trustee[?]. You can also nominate a registered trustee of your choice.

Your obligations

When you are bankrupt:

  • you must provide details of your debts, income and assets to your trustee.
  • your trustee notifies your creditors that you’re bankrupt - this prevents most creditors from contacting you about your debt.
  • your trustee can sell certain assets to help pay your debts.
  • you may need to make compulsory payments[?] if your income exceeds a set amount.

Before entering bankruptcy

Seek advice

Financial counsellors can help you and are available in every state and territory. Their services are free, independent and confidential. They can provide advice about your financial situation and recommend the best option for you to deal with unmanageable debt.
For more information see: Get help with debt decisions.

Know your options

Bankruptcy is just one formal option available under the Bankruptcy Act[?]  to manage your debt. Other formal options include 21 day relief and debt agreements. There are also informal options (such as approaching creditors and requesting a payment plan).
For more information see: What are my options for dealing with unmanageable debt?

Understand the consequences of bankruptcy

Bankruptcy may have a serious impact on you. It may affect your ability to get credit, travel overseas or gain some types of employment.
For more information see: I want to know the consequences of bankruptcy.

At AFSA, we manage the bankruptcy of individuals. If you need information about an insolvent company, contact the Australian Securities Investments Commission (ASIC) at asic.gov.au.

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