Priority of creditors in bankruptcy

It’s crucial, particularly in the realm of insolvency, to comprehend the concept of Priority of Creditors in Bankruptcy. This article delves into the dynamics at play when a debtor is declared insolvent, the hierarchy of creditors, and the implications of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA).

The Role of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA)

According to Section 70 of the BIA, when an individual is declared bankrupt—either voluntarily or by the court—except for certain exempt assets, all their assets are transferred to a Licensed Insolvency Trustee. This trustee is responsible for liquidating the assets and using the proceeds, along with any other funds raised during the bankruptcy process, to repay the creditors. However, not all creditors are on an equal footing.

The Hierarchy of Creditors

The BIA outlines a specific order in which creditors are repaid from the sale of a debtor’s assets. This hierarchy is crucial in determining who gets paid first and how much they receive.

Secured Creditors

Secured creditors hold the highest rank in the pecking order. They have a legal claim to particular assets of the debtor, ensuring their repayment even in the event of bankruptcy. But their claim is only as strong as the value of the asset. For instance, if a mortgage lender’s claim exceeds the sale value of the property after other priority claims, they become an unsecured creditor for the deficit.

Preferred Creditors

The BIA also identifies certain creditors as ‘preferred.’ These creditors don’t have security over specific assets but have a higher claim than ordinary unsecured creditors. The BIA specifies the order of priority among these preferred creditors, ensuring each category is fully paid before the next begins to receive funds. In cases where there are multiple claimants within a category and insufficient assets to cover all claims, the funds are distributed on a pro-rata basis.

Unsecured Creditors

Unsecured creditors have no specific claim to any assets of the debtor. They are the last in line to receive any proceeds from the liquidation of assets. If there are any funds remaining after paying off the secured and preferred creditors, these are distributed pro-rata among the unsecured creditors.

Priority of Creditors:
1. Secured Creditors
2. Preferred Creditors
3. Unsecured Creditors

The Importance of Legal Advice in Bankruptcy

Creditors, whether secured, preferred, or unsecured, should seek advice from an experienced insolvency lawyer to understand their options and the best course of action in the event of a debtor’s bankruptcy.

The Bankruptcy Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

The process of bankruptcy is complex, involving numerous steps and legal procedures. Here’s a simplified overview:

  1. Filing for Bankruptcy: The debtor files for bankruptcy, or a creditor initiates the process if the debtor owes them a significant amount.
  2. Appointment of Trustee: A Licensed Insolvency Trustee is appointed to oversee the process.
  3. Assessment of Assets: The trustee evaluates the debtor’s assets, excluding exempt assets.
  4. Liquidation of Assets: The trustee sells the non-exempt assets to generate funds.
  5. Distribution of Proceeds: The funds are distributed among the creditors according to the priority outlined in the BIA.


Understanding the Priority of Creditors in Bankruptcy is essential for both debtors and creditors. It provides clarity on the repayment process and the hierarchy of claims. It’s always advisable for creditors to consult with an experienced insolvency lawyer to protect their interests.

Remember, bankruptcy is a complex process governed by numerous laws and regulations. This article provides a basic understanding and should not be used as legal advice. For advice tailored to your circumstances, consult with a professional.

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