Bankruptcy in Alberta is a last resort for individuals and businesses struggling with overwhelming debt.
The bankruptcy process can provide relief by eliminating most unsecured debts and stopping collection actions, but it also comes with significant consequences.
It is crucial to understand the process and implications of filing for bankruptcy in Alberta before making any decisions.
This guide will provide an overview of the bankruptcy process in Alberta, the factors to consider when evaluating whether it is the right choice for you, and bankruptcy alternatives that could help you improve your financial situation.
What is bankruptcy (Alberta)?
Bankruptcy is a legal process of insolvency that can provide individuals and businesses in Alberta with a fresh financial start if they are unable to pay their debts.
It is a last resort for those who are struggling with overwhelming debts and have no other viable options to pay them off.
The bankruptcy process involves a court-supervised liquidation of assets to pay off creditors, and any remaining debts are typically written off.
While it can be a useful way to deal with unaffordable debts, filing for bankruptcy has a significant impact on an individual’s assets, like their home or car, as well as negatively affecting their credit rating.
You should always seek debt advice and consider other debt relief solutions before considering bankruptcy as a financial option.
What kind of debts can be included in bankruptcy?
Most debts that are unsecured can be included in bankruptcy. This includes:
- Credit card debt
- Unpaid utility bills
- Personal loans
- Payday loans
- Lines of credit
Are there any debts that are excluded from bankruptcy?
Secured debts, such as a mortgage or car loan, are generally not discharged through bankruptcy.
This means that you will still be expected to repay your secured creditors even after filing for bankruptcy, otherwise you may need to forfeit the property securing the debt.
Other debts that are not discharged through bankruptcy include certain tax debts, such as income tax debt owed to the Canada Revenue Agency, court-ordered fines or penalties, and student loans that are less than 7 years old (or less than 5 years old in some cases).
Additionally, debts incurred through fraud or misrepresentation, such as obtaining credit through false information or using someone else’s identity, cannot be discharged through bankruptcy.
Who is eligible for personal bankruptcy?
Not everyone with financial problems is eligible for bankruptcy in Alberta. Under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act in Canada, you must be insolvent to qualify. That means you must:
- Owe no less than $1,000 in unsecured debt
- Owe more in debts than the value of your assets
- Reside in, or do business in, or own property in Canada
- Be unable to repay your debts as and when they are due
It’s important to note that bankruptcy is a serious decision that can have significant consequences on your financial future, so it should only be considered if you fit the above criteria and you have exhausted all other options.
How much does it cost to file for bankruptcy?
The cost of filing for bankruptcy in Canada can vary depending on the individual’s financial situation and the complexity of the case.
The minimum cost to file for bankruptcy is $2,250 for a first-time bankruptcy, which includes the Licensed Insolvency Trustee’s fees, court fees, and the cost of credit counselling sessions.
This fee is payable in 9 monthly instalments of $250.
Surplus Income Payments
In addition to the filing fee, some individuals may be required to make surplus income payments during their bankruptcy.
Surplus income payments are payments made by individuals whose income exceeds the allowable limit set by the government.
The amount of surplus income is calculated based on a formula set by the government, and the amount varies depending on the individual’s family size and monthly income.
How does the bankruptcy process work in Alberta?
The bankruptcy process in Alberta usually involves the following six steps:
Discuss your options with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT)
Before filing for bankruptcy, you should meet with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to discuss your financial situation and explore other possible options prior to starting the legal process of filing for bankruptcy.
Make your bankruptcy application
If you decide to file for bankruptcy, you will need to make an application. This involves gathering various bankruptcy documents, including payslips and tax returns.
Your bankruptcy will be filed with the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy (OSB), and a stay of proceedings will be put in place, which stops your creditors from taking any legal action against you.
Notify your unsecured creditors
Bankruptcy offers you protection from legal action taken by your creditors. In order to gain creditor protection, you will need to provide a list of your unsecured creditors to the Licensed Insolvency Trustee, who will notify them of your bankruptcy.
Make your monthly payments
If you are required to make surplus income payments, you will need to make monthly payments to the Trustee. The amount of these payments is based on a government formula that takes your financial situation and income into consideration.
Credit counselling sessions
You will be required to attend two credit counselling sessions during your bankruptcy. Credit counselling services are designed to help you understand how to manage your finances and avoid future financial problems.
Once you have completed all of the requirements of your bankruptcy, including making all required payments and attending credit counselling sessions, you will receive an automatic discharge from bankruptcy.
This discharge will write off most of your unsecured debts and allow you to start fresh financially.
However, it’s important to note that some debts, such as student loans and court fines, may not be discharged through bankruptcy.
What happens to your assets after declaring bankruptcy?
When you declare bankruptcy, your assets become part of what’s called the bankruptcy estate.
The bankruptcy estate is managed by a Licensed Insolvency Trustee (LIT), who is responsible for selling your assets to pay off as much of your debt as possible.
However, certain assets may be exempt from the bankruptcy process, and you may be able to keep them.
One of the most significant exemptions is for your principal residence. If you have equity in your home that exceeds the amount of your mortgage, the LIT may be required to sell it to pay off your creditors.
That said, you may be able to keep your home if you can negotiate a payment plan with the LIT to buy back the equity over time.
Personal property, such as furniture, clothing, and household goods, are usually exempt from the bankruptcy process up to a certain value set by provincial legislation. Non-exempt assets, such as a second property or a valuable car, may be sold to pay off your creditors.
Seek advice about exemptions
It’s important to note that the exemptions and rules surrounding assets and bankruptcy can be complex and may vary depending on your specific circumstances and the province in which you live.
It’s essential to speak with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee or financial professional to understand the implications of declaring bankruptcy on your assets.
Will my credit rating be impacted if I declare bankruptcy?
Yes, declaring bankruptcy will have a significant impact on your credit.
When you file for bankruptcy, it is listed on your credit report for six to seven years for a first bankruptcy, which will lower your overall credit rating and make it difficult to obtain credit or loans in the future.
During the bankruptcy process, you will also have to surrender your credit cards and other credit facilities. This means that you will not be able to obtain new credit until you are discharged from bankruptcy.
Alternatives to bankruptcy in Alberta
If you are struggling with debt in Alberta, there are several alternatives to bankruptcy that you may want to consider. These bankruptcy alternatives include:
Debt settlement involves negotiating with your creditors to settle your debts for less than the full amount owed. This can be a viable option if you have a lump sum of money that you can offer your creditors as a settlement.
Debt consolidation involves taking out a loan to pay off multiple debts, leaving you with a single monthly payment at a lower interest rate. This can be a good option if you have several high-interest debts and want to simplify your payments.
A consumer proposal is a formal debt solution, which means it’s a legally-binding arrangement between you and your creditors.
It involves taking on a legal obligation to pay off a portion of your debts over a set period of time, usually up to five years. This can be a good option if you have significant debt but want to avoid bankruptcy.
Where can I get support if I’m experiencing financial difficulty?
If you are facing debt problems and need help with your financial situation, A. Fisher & Associates can offer the advice and support you need to find the right debt relief option for you.
We understand the stress that comes with overwhelming debt, and our team has helped thousands of individuals regain control of their finances and get their lives back on track.
Our experienced advisors are ready to guide you through the process and help you make an informed decision about your financial future. Get in touch with us today.