consumer proposal or bankruptcyIf you are coping with severe debt problems, you have five choices to deal with the crisis: Get a consolidation loan, try to negotiate with your creditors, run away, do a consumer proposal, or go bankrupt.

The first three options you can handle yourself (we don’t recommend trying to run from your problems; they have a nasty habit of catching up). Personal bankruptcies and consumer proposals are solutions governed by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, and they can only be handled by Licensed Insolvency Trustees.

So why would you choose one of the legal solutions over the other? Well, every person’s case is different, so you need to come into a trustee to get advice tailored to your particular situation. But painting with broad brushstrokes, a bankruptcy is a faster and less expensive process, whereas a proposal may protect more of your assets and save your name from being associated with bankruptcy.

With a personal bankruptcy, you are released from your debts after you comply with certain duties. It’s a process that can be over in as little as nine months. Some of your assets would be exempt from this legal process – such as furniture and personal effects – and others would be handed over to the trustee and be used to repay creditors.

This latter category could include houses, high-worth cars, jewelry and certain RRSPs. Also, if you have an income over a certain set amount, you would have to pay 50% of this surplus to creditors, probably lengthening the time you were discharged from the bankruptcy.

A consumer proposal essentially reorganizes your debts. If the proposal is accepted by your creditors, you only have to make one manageable payment a month to the trustee. The length of term for a consumer proposal is five years or less, depending on fast you want to and are able to address your obligations. But generally speaking, it’s a longer more expensive process that a bankruptcy.

With the proposal you avoid the ‘stigma’ of bankruptcy and get to keep all your assets, providing you make your monthly payments and don’t slide into bankruptcy anyway. You may also want to consider a proposal if bankruptcy would also force your spouse to follow the same route, or if you are expecting to receive a large sum of money down the road.

Also, with a bankruptcy, you must complete a monthly budget for all income and expenses, as well as supply copies of your pay stubs to the trustee. If your income goes up during the period of your bankruptcy, then your surplus payments would also increase. With a consumer proposal, there are no monthly reporting requirements.