If you have run into financial difficulties, whether due to a change in your circumstances or the collapse of your business, you will need urgent advice on your options for dealing with the money that you owe. You will also need an honest appraisal of whether it may be possible to restructure your personal debt obligations or organise re-financing to avoid the risk of you being declared bankrupt.
Our Dispute Resolution and Litigation team specialise in providing personal insolvency advice, and in helping to guide individuals, business owners and company directors out of financial trouble.
We also advise the spouses and associates of someone who is teetering on the edge of insolvency and who may be concerned about the impact of this on their own financial security.
The threat of bankruptcy
You are at risk of being declared bankrupt where you have debts of £5,000 or more which you are unable to pay when they fall due and which your creditors are actively demanding.
It is possible for anyone with an unpaid bill to apply to have you made bankrupt, including credit card companies, local businesses who have supplied you with goods or services, HMRC and even an insolvency practitioner where you are the director of a now-defunct company who is being pursued to make a personal contrition towards clearing company debts.
How we can help
We can provide advice on:
- responding to a statutory demand, in which a creditor requires a debt to be settled within 21 days in default of which a petition for your bankruptcy may be issued;
- negotiating a voluntary repayment plan, in which you ask your creditors for more time to settle the monies that you owe;
- extracting some of the equity built up in your home, and exploring other refinancing options;
- entering into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA), in which you and your creditors strike a legally binding deal about how your debts will be dealt with and which sees some of what you owe written off in return for you making regular payments over a defined term;
- applying for a Debt Relief Order, which is similar to an IVA but is designed for cases where your debt levels are relatively low;
- dealing with an insolvency practitioner who is pursuing you to make a personal contribution towards business debts, possibly combined with directors’ disqualification proceedings;
- dealing with a creditor who is pursuing you for monies owed under a personal guarantee;
- petitioning for your own bankruptcy; and
- responding to an application for a Bankruptcy Restriction Order, which seeks to keep you in the bankruptcy process for longer due to alleged wrongdoing on your part.
Advice to spouses and associates
When someone is declared bankrupt, the person appointed to handle their affairs (known as the trustee in bankruptcy) will do all they can to collect in as many assets as possible to clear the debts that are owed. Depending on the circumstances, this may include staking a claim to any property in which the bankrupt has an interest, including business premises and the family home.
If you are likely to be affected by a bankruptcy order made against your husband, wife or civil partner, or someone you are in business with, then we can advise you on where you stand and help you to negotiate with the trustee in bankruptcy to ensure that your interests are protected.
If you are keen to try to avoid bankruptcy, then your initial efforts should be focused on exploring whether there are any refinancing options open to you. This might take the form of remortgaging your home to extract some capital and benefit from better payment terms, or consolidating your current debts into a single loan with a new provider who is offering an attractive rate of interest.
Where this is not an option, consideration should be given to whether you are eligible to apply for an Individual Voluntary Arrangement or a Debt Relief Order. This needs to be done quickly, to avoid the risk of your creditors ‘getting in first’ and thwarting your attempts to stay afloat.
A Debt Relief Order may be appropriate where:
- you have debts of no more than £30,000;
- you have less than £75 to spend each month, after paying household expenses, tax and national insurance; and
- you do not own assets worth more than £2,000.
An Individual Insolvency Arrangement may be appropriate where a Debt Relief Order is not. But be aware that with an IVA you will need approval from creditors who hold at least 75 per cent of your debts to get the IVA passed, and you will therefore need to make sure that your proposals for trying to clear at least some of what you owe are suitably attractive and will result in creditors receiving more from you than they would receive if you were forced into a bankruptcy situation.
Liability for business debts
If your financial problems stem from the collapse of a company, in which you were a director, then specialist advice will be required not only on the immediate consequences of this but also on the likelihood of being pursued to make a personal contribution towards company funds.
This may be a possibility where you have given a personal guarantee for the company’s debts; you have an overdrawn director’s loan account, or you have been accused of committing an insolvency offence, such as:
- misapplying or retaining money which rightly belongs to the company;
- allowing the company to continue trading when you knew insolvency could not be avoided;
- carrying on the business of the company for fraudulent purposes; or
- otherwise acting in breach of your fiduciary duties as a director.
Seeking advice at an early stage will not only improve your chances of being able to resist or negotiate down any call on your personal finances, it may also reduce the likelihood of you being subject to further action – such as directors’ disqualification proceedings or criminal sanctions.
Why choose Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors?
Our Dispute Resolution and Litigation team is well-known for their success in helping individuals and business owners who are in financial distress. Working with a network of highly experienced insolvency practitioners, we have the expertise to undertake debt restructuring and refinancing, to defend personal contribution claims in respect of corporate liabilities and to guide you through the insolvency process where, despite best efforts, bankruptcy cannot be avoided.
To make an appointment to see one of our Insolvency Solicitors, Ken Stangoe, Richard Millard, Trevor Coward or Guy Brooks please call on 01908 692769 or contact us. You may also like to sign up to receive our newsletter, visit our resource hub, or read some of our most recent client testimonials.
What our clients say:
“You have done a brilliant job from start to end and provided the most efficient and professional service.”
For more information about how we can help, you can read testimonials from our dispute resolution clients
Chambers & Partners 2021 notes the team is well-respected and active on a wide range of contractual claims and commercial disputes, including unfair prejudice claims and fraud-related proceedings. Local and international clientele comes from a variety of industry sectors, and also includes private individuals and SMEs. One client commends the “proactive, engaging and considerate” nature of the team.
Chambers & Partners 2020 says ‘Well-respected team active on a wide range of contractual claims and commercial disputes, including unfair prejudice claims and fraud-related proceedings. Local and international clientele comes from a variety of industry sectors, and also includes private individuals and SMEs.’
Legal 500 2020 says ‘Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors LLP’s dispute resolution and litigation practice specialises in commercial property disputes, distribution and agency agreements, debt collection and director, shareholder and partnership disputes. Its work includes dealing with injunctions and freezing orders and work in areas such as insolvency, international trade and IT and e-commerce. Practice head Kenneth Stangoe, Trevor Coward, Guy Brooks and Richard Millard are the key contacts’
The Dispute Resolution & Litigation Team
Ken Stangoe Partner
Dispute Resolution & Litigation 01908 689307Ken is Head of the Department. He has over 20 years' experience as a commercial litigator, with a heavy focus on property disputes, including forfeiture actions and applications for relief, right of way disputes, rent recovery for commercial landlords, trusts of land, dilapidations claims, boundary disputes, rent and service charge recovery and lease renewal applications.
Richard Millard Managing Partner
Construction & Development 01908 689382Richard has over 20 years’ experience acting for clients in the construction industry, providing pragmatic advice to developers, contractors, sub-contractors, design and construction professionals, housing associations, smaller builders and homeowners.
Guy Brooks Partner
Dispute Resolution & Litigation 01908 689304Guy has more than 30 years’ experience in the legal profession and headed up the Commercial Litigation department of local firm Fennemores, before joining Geoffrey Leaver as joint head of the Dispute Resolution department in 2006. The Dispute Resolution department have been recognised by Legal 500 UK.
Trevor Coward Partner
Dispute Resolution & Litigation 01908 689311Trevor specialises in the closely connected fields of commercial litigation, partner/director disputes, insolvency, property litigation, and professional negligence. His background is one of broad experience across a wide range of commercial litigation. He is a member of Legal Counsel International, an alliance of lawyers in 17 countries.