Who is the Official Receiver?
The Official Receiver is a civil servant in The Insolvency Service and an officer of the court. He (or she) will be notified by the court of your bankruptcy. He will then be responsible through his staff for administering the initial stage, at least, of the insolvency case. This stage includes collecting and protecting any assets and investigating the causes of your bankruptcy.
What are my duties?
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 2 working days of receiving the insolvency order. Usually they will arrange an appointment for you to attend at the Official Receiver’s office for an interview, normally within 10 working days of receiving the order. If the Official Receiver does not require you to attend for an interview, you will be sent a letter setting out what is required of you. In both circumstances you will receive a questionnaire to complete. The more organised you are, the more straightforward the process will be. If you are asked to attend for an interview, before the interview, you should do three things:
- Telephone the Official Receiver immediately to confirm the appointment if you have not already done so or if:
- you have any infirmity, disability or other difficulty which you consider may require special facilities when attending his office;
- any matters need to be sorted out urgently;
- you need to rearrange the appointment; or
- you have a lot of paperwork or accounting records and need to have them collected.
- Fill in the questionnaire and make a note of any points you do not understand.
- Collect all the information you will need for the interview. This means financial details, including bank statements, and other paperwork about your finances.
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Do not ignore the Official Receiver in the hope that he will go away. He will not. If you do not co-operate, you may have to attend court to be questioned and could even be arrested if you still fail to co-operate. In a bankruptcy, you could also have your discharge from bankruptcy proceedings suspended, which would mean that your bankruptcy could last much longer than normal.
all your bankruptcy debts and the fees and expenses of the bankruptcy proceedings have been either paid in full or guaranteed to the satisfaction of the court; or
you have reached an agreement called an “individual voluntary arrangement” with your creditors to repay all or part of your debts.
What happens at the first appointment?
You should go to the reception desk when you arrive. You can expect to be seen at the time of the appointment, or certainly no later than five minutes after the fixed appointment time. Then, in a private interview room:
- your questionnaire will be checked by a member of the Official Receiver’s staff - if you have not completed the questionnaire, you will be asked to do so there and then;
- you will be interviewed by an examiner (a member of staff who is a specialist in insolvency matters) who will go into the details of your or the company’s assets and debts, and the facts and circumstances which led to the insolvency; and
- you should hand over all of your or the company’s financial records and papers. They will be examined and recorded then or at a later interview. The records will be kept by the Official Receiver.
You should feel free to ask any questions about the proceedings or your case when you are at the Official Receiver’s office.You may be asked to attend another appointment, particularly if:
- they need more time to complete enquiries into your affairs;
- you cannot, or do not, provide all the financial records;
- they need more details of your assets, debts and financial affairs;
- you cannot provide all the information they need; or
- you do not turn up for any appointment
What happens next?
After the interview, the Official Receiver will check the information you have given. He will issue a report to creditors (and shareholders in a winding-up), setting out your or the company’s assets and debts. If there are material assets, he will seek the appointment of a private sector insolvency practitioner to act as trustee or liquidator to deal with the realisation and distribution of the assets. To do this, the Official Receiver will either call a meeting of creditors to enable them to appoint a practitioner or ask the Secretary of State to make an appointment. Otherwise, the Official Receiver will continue to deal with everything.
- The report to creditors will be issued, usually within 8 (but in any event within 12) weeks of the insolvency order.
- If a meeting of creditors is appropriate, it will usually be held within 12 weeks (but in any event within 4 months) of the insolvency order. You may be asked to attend the meeting of creditors. You will be notified if an insolvency practitioner is appointed as trustee or liquidator.
- You will need to help the trustee or liquidator to deal with your or the company’s affairs by giving your full co-operation.
How long will the process take?
What happens next, and how long it takes, depends on the complexity of the case. If you have provided all the necessary information and no problems are expected in dealing with the assets, you may not hear from the Official Receiver again. Any remaining matters (such as telling the Official Receiver of any change of address) may be dealt with by letter or telephone. In a winding-up, that may be the end of the matter.In a bankruptcy, you will normally remain bankrupt for 3 years or, if your bankruptcy order refers to a “certificate of summary administration”, for 2 years. After this time you will be automatically discharged from the restrictions of bankruptcy. However, if you fail to co-operate with the Official Receiver or trustee, the court can be asked to suspend the discharge period. If the court agrees, your bankruptcy will only end when the suspension has been lifted. If you have previously been bankrupt within the last 15 years, you will not be entitled to an automatic discharge. You will have to apply to the court for your discharge; you cannot do this until 5 years after your latest bankruptcy. Discharge from bankruptcy does not end your trustee’s administration of any assets which became part of your bankruptcy estate. The more difficulty the Official Receiver has in determining the causes of the insolvency or administering the assets, the longer the whole process will take. As part of the process, he may require you to:
- submit a sworn statement of affairs (a summary of your or the company’s assets and debts);
- provide accounts for yourself or the company; and
- provide an account of all dealings in cash and goods.
If you do not co-operate with the Official Receiver, he may also apply to the court for your public examination. This means you will be questioned in open court about your or the company’s affairs, dealings and property. Your or the company’s creditors may also be there and ask questions of you as well. Under the insolvency and other legislation there are provisions about criminal offences and unfit conduct by directors. The Official Receiver will report to The Insolvency Service’s Headquarters if there seems to be evidence of criminality or unfitness. But the Official Receiver does not approach this task on the basis that every bankrupt and director has committed offences or is unfit - his job is to establish the facts. In the vast majority of cases, those facts do not suggest that it is in the public interest for criminal or disqualification proceedings to begin.
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