Bankruptcy in Singapore: A Comprehensive Guide to Filing and Moving Forward

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Bankruptcy in Singapore: A Comprehensive Guide to Filing and Moving Forward


Let's face it, nobody wants to file for bankruptcy. It can be a scary and overwhelming process, but it's important to know that it's not the end of the world. In fact, it can be an opportunity for a fresh start.

When you file for bankruptcy in Singapore, your assets are transferred to what's called the "bankruptcy estate." This is managed by a trustee, who is responsible for selling your assets and distributing the proceeds to your creditors.

In this guide, we'll take a closer look at what happens to your assets in the bankruptcy estate and what the trustee does with them. We'll also go over the important duties that you need to fulfill once the bankruptcy order is made, so you can make sure you're on the right track to start fresh again.

Now, we know the legal jargon can be confusing, but don't worry, we'll break it down for you in simple terms. So, if you're feeling overwhelmed or lost in the bankruptcy process, keep reading and we'll help you navigate it step by step.

Note that bankruptcy is not a decision to be taken lightly, as it has long-term consequences on your credit score, financial reputation, and future business opportunities.

Understanding the Bankruptcy Process in Singapore

What triggers bankruptcy in Singapore?

Bankruptcy can be triggered when a debtor is unable to repay their debts.

In Singapore, creditors can initiate debt recovery proceedings against a debtor when the debtor has failed to pay back the debt owed. However, before taking legal action, it is recommended that creditors try to negotiate with the debtor to come to a mutually agreeable solution, such as a repayment plan.

If negotiation fails, creditors can initiate legal proceedings by issuing a statutory demand or a writ of summons. A statutory demand is a formal demand for payment that must be served on the debtor and gives them 21 days to settle the debt. If the debtor fails to pay or make arrangements to pay within this period, the creditor can then proceed to file a bankruptcy application.

Alternatively, a creditor can issue a writ of summons, which is a legal document that initiates a civil lawsuit against the debtor. The debtor will then have to file a defence within the given time period, failing which the creditor can obtain a default judgment against the debtor.

There are two major types of bankruptcy: voluntary bankruptcy and involuntary bankruptcy. Voluntary bankruptcy is when the debtor initiates the bankruptcy process by filing an application with the Official Assignee (OA). Involuntary bankruptcy is when creditors initiate the process by filing a bankruptcy petition with the High Court.

How to file for bankruptcy in Singapore

There are many reasons why a person or business owner may consider filing for bankruptcy, such as being unable to pay debts due to job loss, illness, or other financial difficulties. Bankruptcy can also be used as a tool to prevent creditors from taking legal action against a debtor, or to stop collection agencies from harassing them. It can also provide much-needed relief for those struggling to pay off their debts.

Debtor filing

To file for bankruptcy in Singapore, the debtor must submit an application to the OA. The application must include details about the debtor's debts, assets, and income. The OA will review the application and may require additional information or documentation.

Here is a step-by-step guide on the debtor filing process for bankruptcy in Singapore:

Obtain and fill out the bankruptcy application form

The first step for debtors who wish to file for bankruptcy in Singapore is to obtain the bankruptcy application form, which can be downloaded from the Insolvency Office of Singapore's (IOS) website or obtained in person at the IOS office. The debtor will need to provide personal and financial information such as income, assets, and debts. The debtor will also need to declare if they have been bankrupt before and if they have any outstanding judgments against them.

Submit the bankruptcy application form to the OA

Once the application form has been filled out, the debtor must submit it to the Official Assignee (OA) at the IOS office. The debtor will also need to pay a fee of S$1,850 to the OA, which covers the OA's expenses in administering the bankruptcy estate.

Attend an interview with the OA

After submitting the bankruptcy application form, the debtor will be required to attend an interview with the OA. During the interview, the debtor will be asked to provide more information about their debts, assets, and income. The OA will also explain the implications of bankruptcy and advise the debtor on their options.

Wait for the outcome of the bankruptcy application

After the interview, the OA will review the debtor's application and may require additional information or documentation. The OA will then make a decision on whether to accept or reject the application. If the application is accepted, the debtor will be declared bankrupt and the OA will take over the debtor's estate.

Fulfill obligations as a bankrupt

Once the debtor is declared bankrupt, they will be required to fulfill certain obligations, including attending a debt counseling session and making monthly contributions to the bankruptcy estate. The debtor will also need to surrender their assets to the OA, who will then sell them to repay the creditors. The debtor will be restricted from taking out any new loans or credit cards.

To reschedule a court date, one must request approval from the court if unable to attend.


If you decide to file for bankruptcy yourself, you can do so by completing the necessary forms and submitting them to the OA. Here's a brief overview of the self-filing process:

Step 1: Obtain the necessary forms.

You can download the forms from the OA website, or you can pick them up in person at the OA office. These forms include:

Debtor's Bankruptcy Application,

Affidavit in Support of Debtor’s Bankruptcy Application (check here to prepare this form),

Statement of Affairs and

Affidavit Verifying Statement of Affairs.

Step 2: Complete the forms.

The forms will ask for information about your debts, assets, and income. You will also need to provide details about any legal action that has been taken against you, as well as any judgments that have been entered against you.

Step 3: Pay the filing fee.

The fee for self-filing is currently $1,850. This fee covers the cost of processing your application and includes the Official Assignee's fee, which is the fee that the OA charges for administering your bankruptcy estate.

Step 4: Submit the forms and fee.

Once you have completed the forms and paid the fee, you can submit your application to the OA. The OA will review your application and may request additional information or documentation if needed.

Step 5: Attend the interview.

After your application has been reviewed, you will be required to attend an interview with the OA (same as that of debtor filing). During the interview, you will be asked about your financial situation and your reasons for filing for bankruptcy. The OA will also explain the bankruptcy process and your duties and responsibilities as a bankrupt.

It's important to note that self-filing is a complex process, and there are risks involved. If you make a mistake on your application or fail to provide all the necessary information, your application may be rejected, and you may have to start the process all over again.

Hiring a lawyer can help guide you through the process and ensure that your rights are protected. The fees for a lawyer can vary, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 or more, depending on the complexity of your case.

Here is an easy-to-understand table of the estimated fees involved in filing for bankruptcy in Singapore:

Item or service
Filing a bankruptcy application
Filing an affidavit (per page, including exhibits)
Filing a Statement of Affairs
Deposit paid to the Official Assignee

These are just some examples of the fees involved in the bankruptcy process. It's important to note that there may be other fees or charges depending on your individual situation. Be sure to consult with a bankruptcy lawyer or the Official Assignee for a more accurate estimate of the total costs involved.

For more detailed information, read here.

Duties To Fulfill: The Bankruptcy Application Process And Timeline

In Singapore, the process of filing for bankruptcy is done through the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office (IPTO). Before filing, it is important to understand the steps involved and the costs associated with filing for bankruptcy.

Step 1: Contact IPTO

To begin the process of filing for bankruptcy, you must contact the IPTO to make an appointment. During this appointment, a bankruptcy officer will assess your financial situation and provide you with legal advice on the best course of action. It is important to be as honest and open as possible during this process as any information you provide will be used to determine whether or not you qualify for bankruptcy.

Step 2: Submit Documents

You must submit all the necessary documents required by the IPTO in order to begin the bankruptcy process. These documents may include financial statements, tax returns, and other evidence of your financial situation.

Step 3: Filing for Bankruptcy

Once your documents have been submitted, you may file for bankruptcy with the IPTO. This involves signing a declaration of insolvency and paying all fees associated with filing. After filing, your creditors will be notified and a public notice will be published informing people of your bankruptcy.

Step 4: Trustee Appointed

After you have filed for bankruptcy, the IPTO will appoint a official trustee to manage your financial affairs. The trustee will manage the bankruptcy estate, sell your assets, and distribute the proceeds to your creditors according to the priority of their claims. He/She will then take the necessary steps to ensure that you are complying with bankruptcy laws.

In any case of bankruptcy, the bankruptcy estate can also be administered by a private trustee, who may hold a profession as an accountant or lawyer. Read this article's FAQ section for more information on this.

As mentioned in the introduction of this article, when a bankruptcy order is made, all of your assets are transferred to the bankruptcy estate. The trustee is then responsible for selling your assets and distributing the proceeds to your creditors.

Step 5: Repayment Plan

Once the trustee has assessed your financial situation, they will create a repayment plan for you to follow. This plan may involve selling off some of your assets or setting up a repayment plan with creditors in order to pay back all the money you owe. It is important to adhere to this repayment plan as failure to do so could lead to further consequences.

Step 6: Bankruptcy Discharge

Once you have completed all the steps required by the trustee, such as paying back all debts and selling off assets, you may be eligible to apply for a discharge from bankruptcy. This will release you from all your debts and allow you to start fresh.

If the target contribution is paid off, the bankrupt can be discharged from bankruptcy.

The OA has the authority to recommend an earlier discharge from bankruptcy if they determine that the individual has demonstrated satisfactory conduct and has consistently made monthly contributions.

What happens after a bankruptcy application is filed

Once a bankruptcy order is issued, the debtor's assets will be seized by the OA and sold to repay creditors. The debtor will also be required to make regular payments to the OA for a period of three to five years. During this time, the debtor's finances will be closely monitored by the OA.

When it comes to bankruptcy, don't be fooled - the cost of filing will likely fall on YOU, no matter who files.

For example, your lawyer will help you file the bankruptcy application with the High Court of Singapore. However, you will need to pay a non-returnable fee of $1,850 when you file your application and if only it is a successful one. Otherwise, get the lowdown on the nitty-gritty details here by Singapore Legal Advice.

Consequences Of Bankruptcy: Impact On The Debtor's Assets And More

When a debtor files for bankruptcy, their assets will be seized by the OA and sold to repay creditors. This includes any property, investments, and personal possessions that the debtor owns.

Bankruptcy can have serious consequences for the debtor's business and employment. The debtor may be required to resign from any directorships they hold and may be prohibited from starting a new business during the bankruptcy period.

Bankruptcy can also have legal consequences for the debtor. For example, the debtor may be disqualified from serving as a director of a company or from practicing as a professional in certain fields.

Bankruptcy will have a negative impact on the debtor's credit rating. This can make it difficult to obtain credit in the future and may also affect the debtor's ability to rent or purchase property.

Alternative Options to Bankruptcy

Informal arrangements with creditors

One option for debtors is to negotiate an informal arrangement with their creditors. This may involve restructuring debt, reducing interest rates, or extending the repayment period.

Debt Restructuring

Debt restructuring involves renegotiating the terms of the debtor's debts with creditors. This may involve reducing the interest rate or extending the repayment period to make the debt more manageable.

Voluntary Arrangements

A voluntary arrangement is a formal agreement between the debtor and their creditors to repay the debt over a set period of time. This can be an alternative to bankruptcy for debtors who are able to repay their debts but need time to do so.

Other debt management options

There are other debt management options available, such as debt consolidation plans, credit counseling, and debt management plans.

These options can help debtors manage their debt and avoid bankruptcy. It's important for debtors to explore all of their options and choose the one that works best for their financial situation.

Get an appointment with our professional team at Smart-Towkay for any business assistance you may need today.


To sum up, there are some assets that are protected and won't be included in the bankruptcy estate. These assets are off-limits to creditors and won't be distributed to them. They include things like your CPF account, your HDB flat (if at least one owner is a Singapore citizen), and any equipment or items needed for your personal use in your work or business. Your monthly income, after deducting necessary contributions, and annual bonus or wage supplement paid as part of your income are also protected.

However, if you default on your monthly contributions, creditors can sell any assets that were previously used to secure your loans, as long as they don't belong to the protected asset category.

Remember, filing for bankruptcy in Singapore is a serious decision that requires careful consideration. It's important to understand the consequences of bankruptcy and explore other options for debt relief before deciding to file. If you do choose to file, it's crucial to have the guidance of a bankruptcy lawyer who specializes in this area of law. But, always keep in mind that there's always hope for a fresh start!

Frequently Asked Questions

Will my name be listed in the bankruptcy register?

Yes, your name will be listed in Singapore's bankruptcy register. The register can be searched by anyone, including potential employers and the general public, for a fee. However, it is possible to have your name removed from the register after a certain period of time, depending on how you exit bankruptcy.

If the target contribution is not paid, bankruptcy can still be discharged after 7 years, but your name will be permanently listed on public bankruptcy records.

What happens if my family helps with debt repayments?

Your family will only be liable for your debts if they are co-borrowers of the debt with you. For example, if you took out a mortgage or loan with your spouse or sibling, they would be responsible for the debt. If your family members acted as guarantors for your loans, they may also be made bankrupt if they cannot repay the loan.

Can I still work if I file for bankruptcy?

Yes, you can continue working as normal even if you are declared bankrupt.

What if I live in an HDB flat with my spouse?

If you and your spouse live in an HDB flat, it's important to inform HDB about your financial situation. HDB can help you come up with a temporary payment plan to ease your financial burden and avoid legal action for any outstanding payments.

Can I still file for divorce if I am bankrupt?

Yes, you can still file for divorce even if you are bankrupt. Your spouse can also file for divorce against you.

What's the difference between private trustee and OA?

The Official Assignee (OA) is a public officer appointed by the Singapore government to administer bankruptcy cases. The OA is responsible for investigating the bankrupt's affairs, taking possession of and selling the bankrupt's assets, and distributing the proceeds to creditors. The OA also manages the bankrupt's affairs during the bankruptcy period and determines the bankrupt's eligibility for discharge.

On the other hand, a Private Trustee is a professional appointed by the court to act as a trustee of the bankrupt's estate. Private Trustees are typically appointed in cases where the bankruptcy estate is more complex, and the assets involved are of higher value. Private Trustees may also be appointed in cases where there are conflicts of interest that may arise if the OA were to be appointed.

In summary, while the OA is a public officer appointed by the government to manage bankruptcy cases, a Private Trustee is a professional appointed by the court in more complex cases.

Read also: All You Need To Know About Corporate Bankruptcy In Singapore

Read also: Who Acts As A Guarantor In A Business Loan? A Detailed Legal Advice Before You Become a Loan Guarantor!

Read also: Understanding Your Credit Report from Credit Bureau Singapore - Business Owner Edition 2021


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UPDATED AS OF 15 Jun 2024
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