What is an Involuntary Bankruptcy?

A little-known type of bankruptcy is the involuntary bankruptcy. Most people have never heard of it because it is quite rare. With that being said, it’s still an important facet of bankruptcy law that debtors with substantial assets should be aware of.

The involuntary bankruptcy exists to protect creditors who are owed significant amounts of money. In fact, creditors are the ones who file for involuntary bankruptcy against the debtor who owes them money. This type of bankruptcy almost always applies to businesses rather than individual debtors.

Who can creditors force into bankruptcy?

While it is legal for creditors to file an involuntary bankruptcy against an individual, the creditor would be hard-pressed to squeeze any money out of a debtor with no assets and no cash. In fact, filing for an involuntary bankruptcy against a single debtor would almost always be counter-intuitive, leaving the creditor with even fewer options through which to recover their money.

On the other hand, sometimes a creditor is owed money by a business or corporation that is able to repay their debt. When a business has the assets that would allow them to repay their debt but they choose not to, their creditor(s) have the right to file for involuntary bankruptcy.

How does involuntary bankruptcy work?

The majority of involuntary bankruptcies are filed jointly by more than one creditor. This is because this type of bankruptcy typically applies to business owners, and they often have a number of creditors. For debtors (business owners) with more than 12 creditors (unsecured), at least 25% of them must agree to file for an involuntary bankruptcy.

The creditors who collaborate to petition for involuntary bankruptcy will file for this action with the court. Debtors can respond within 20 days if they do not agree to move forward with a bankruptcy. Failure to respond means the debtor will be forced to move through the bankruptcy process.

A hearing will ultimately decide either in favor of the debtor/business owner or the creditor(s). If the bankruptcy judge decides in the favor of the creditor(s), the bankruptcy will be approved and the debtor will be ordered to pay the creditor(s) the monies owed.

When an involuntary bankruptcy hearing settles in the debtor’s favor, the bankruptcy case will automatically be dismissed and the creditors responsible for the filing of the case may also be ordered to pay the debtor for their court costs and fees.

Can a single creditor file for involuntary bankruptcy against a business owner?

Involuntary bankruptcy can only be filed by a single creditor if they are owed a significant amount of money. As of 2016, that amount is $15,775. Again, this is only possible if the debtor in question does not have more than 12 unsecured creditors.

For debtors with more than 12 unsecured creditors, at least three of them must collaborate, as mentioned above, in order for an involuntary bankruptcy to be heard at trial. These three creditors together must be owed a minimum of $15,775.

Can an involuntary chapter 13 bankruptcy be filed by creditors?

As of right now, the only types of involuntary bankruptcy that are permissible are chapter 7 and chapter 11. Also noteworthy: an involuntary bankruptcy may not be filed if the debtor is a nonprofit organization, bank, insurance company, credit union or farmer.

 

Image: “Bankruptcy” by new3dom3000 – licensed under CC by 2.0

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