A trustee in bankruptcy must be either an Official Receiver (a civil servant) or a licensed insolvency practitioner. Current law in England and Wales derives in large part from the Insolvency Act 1986. Following the introduction of the Enterprise Act 2002, a UK bankruptcy now normally last no longer than 12 months, and may be less if the Official Receiver files in court a certificate that investigations are complete. It was expected that the UK Government's liberalization of the UK bankruptcy regime would increase the number of bankruptcy cases; initially, cases increased, as the Insolvency Service statistics appear to bear out. Since 2009, the introduction of the Debt Relief Order has resulted in a dramatic fall in bankruptcies, the latest estimates for year 2014/15 being significantly less than 30,000 cases.
There are two alternative systems that can be used to "exempt" property from a bankruptcy estate, federal exemptions (available in some states but not all), and state exemptions (which vary widely between states). For example, Maryland and Virginia, which are adjoining states, have different personal exemption amounts that cannot be seized for payment of debts. This amount is the first $6,000 in property or cash in Maryland, but normally only the first $5,000 in Virginia. State law therefore plays a major role in many bankruptcy cases, such that there may be significant differences in the outcome of a bankruptcy case depending upon the state in which it is filed.
The formal bankruptcy process is rarely carried out for individuals. Creditors can claim money through the Enforcement Administration anyway, and creditors do not usually benefit from the bankruptcy of individuals because there are costs of a bankruptcy manager which has priority. Unpaid debts remain after bankruptcy for individuals. People who are deeply in debt can obtain a debt arrangement procedure (Swedish: skuldsanering). On application, they obtain a payment plan under which they pay as much as they can for five years, and then all remaining debts are cancelled. Debts that derive from a ban on business operations (issued by court, commonly for tax fraud or fraudulent business practices) or owed to a crime victim as compensation for damages, are exempted from this—and, as before this process was introduced in 2006, remain lifelong. Debts that have not been claimed during a 3-10 year period are cancelled. Often crime victims stop their claims after a few years since criminals often do not have job incomes and might be hard to locate, while banks make sure their claims are not cancelled. The most common reasons for personal insolvency in Sweden are illness, unemployment, divorce or company bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy in the United Kingdom (in a strict legal sense) relates only to individuals (including sole proprietors) and partnerships. Companies and other corporations enter into differently named legal insolvency procedures: liquidation and administration (administration order and administrative receivership). However, the term 'bankruptcy' is often used when referring to companies in the media and in general conversation. Bankruptcy in Scotland is referred to as sequestration. To apply for bankruptcy in Scotland, an individual must have more than £1,500 of debt.
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Bankruptcy, also referred to as insolvency in Canada, is governed by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and is applicable to businesses and individuals. For example, Target Canada, the Canadian subsidiary of the Target Corporation, the second-largest discount retailer in the United States filed for bankruptcy in January 15, 2015, and closed all of its stores by April 12. The office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, a federal agency, is responsible for overseeing that bankruptcies are administered in a fair and orderly manner by all licensed Trustees in Canada.
Financially distressed municipalities, including cities, towns, villages, counties, and school districts, may file for bankruptcy under Chapter 9. Under Chapter 9, there is no liquidation of assets to repay the municipality's debts. Chapter 12 bankruptcy provides relief to "family farmers" or "family fishermen" with regular annual income. Both Chapters 9 and 12 make use of an extended debt repayment plan. Chapter 15 was added in 2005 to deal with cross-border cases which involve debtors, assets, creditors and other parties who may be in more than one country. This type of petition is usually filed in the debtor's home country.