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Bankruptcy is a type of insolvency which is available as a last resort if you're unable to repay your debts.

It is only possible to go bankrupt if you meet all of the following conditions:

What happens in bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal process, so it gives you total protection from your lenders.

Once your bankruptcy is approved, your lenders are not allowed to contact you or take any action to collect the debt.

All of your assets, including your home, your car and any savings you have will pass to the Official Assignee at the Insolvency Service. The Official Assignee may sell your home to raise money to pay to your lenders. You’ll be allowed to keep a vehicle if you need one.

Bankruptcy will normally last for 12 months and any debt left at the end of this will be written off. But if you have any money left over each month after your bills and other living costs, the Official Assignee may also order you to make payments to them for up to three years. This is called an income payment order.

Going bankrupt

You can apply to go bankrupt yourself, and you don’t need to pay for a solicitor or insolvency practitioner. But the effects of bankruptcy are serious, so it’s important you get full advice before making this decision. Most people will find a different type of insolvency is a better solution.

If you decide to go bankrupt, first you need to pay a fee of €200 to the Insolvency Service. You’ll also need to complete bankruptcy forms giving full information about your debts, income and assets.

Then you need to arrange a court hearing at the High Court in Dublin. At the hearing, a Judge will decide whether to declare you bankrupt.

If your bankruptcy is agreed, an appointment will be arranged with the Insolvency Service. Notice of your bankruptcy will be published in Iris Oifigiúil or on the Insolvency Service website and on a public register. You will be charged €75 for this.

The Official Assignee at the Insolvency Service will take over ownership of your assets and decide whether you can afford to pay anything after your bankruptcy.

From this point, your lenders are not allowed to contact you or take any further action. They can only deal with the Official Assignee.

What debts can be included in bankruptcy?

Most debts are included in bankruptcy. Unsecured debts such as credit and store cards, overdrafts, credit union loans and business loans are all included.

Family maintenance payments under Court orders, Revenue debts, personal guarantees and trade debts are also included in bankruptcy.

Mortgages and other secured debts may be included depending on your circumstances.

Court fines in respect of criminal offences and debts you take out after the date of your bankruptcy are not included in bankruptcy, and you’ll still have to pay these.

After your bankruptcy has been approved

Once you’re bankrupt you must stop paying anything directly to your lenders. You should only make the payments to the Official Assignee if they ask you to.

If your income or living costs change during your bankruptcy, you must let the Official Assignee know. If this affects the amount you can pay, they may change your payments. The Official Assignee will contact you every six months during your bankruptcy to check if anything has changed.

Your bank account will be affected by your bankruptcy and you may be required to open a new account elsewhere.

If you run your own business, there are some restrictions on how you trade after bankruptcy. For example, you can’t change the name of your business and you can’t be a company director. In some cases your employment may be affected by bankruptcy, this is something you may need to discuss with your employer.

If you apply for any credit of more than €650 during your bankruptcy you must tell the lender you’re borrowing from that you’re bankrupt.

Your credit rating will be affected after your bankruptcy, and you’ll probably find it difficult to borrow more money. After the end of your bankruptcy, your credit rating should improve over time if you don’t run up more debts.

After 12 months, your bankruptcy will normally end. This is called discharge. Any remaining debt that was included in your bankruptcy will be written off when you’re discharged, leaving you to make a fresh start with no debts.

Find out more

If you want to know more, the Insolvency Service publishes a useful guide to bankruptcy (PDF).

If you need debt advice, call the MABS helpline now on 0761 07 2000. They’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 8pm.

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