Earlier on this week, former Labour MP Jim Devine was sequestered after a hearing at Livingston Sheriff Court. If you’ve not heard about the case, a former employee of Mr. Devine applied for – and was granted – a sequestration order against him after he failed to pay a compensation order following him losing an industrial tribunal case.
It all started back in 2010 when former office manager Marion Kinley was awarded £35,000 by an employment tribunal after winning her case against Mr. Devine for unfair dismissal. Despite Jim Devine owning a number of assets including a property in London and one in Scotland plus some land, Marion waited five months for her award to be paid and eventually lost patience.
This relatively high profile case has put sequestration and alternatives such as Trust Deeds into the spotlight. It shows how someone with an apparent good standard of living and a number of assets can still lose it all quickly due to a series of unfortunate events that spiral out of control. It also begs the question: when there are so many debt solutions available, why was Jim Devine not advised about the advantages of Trust Deeds before it was too late?
Like many situations, there are a number of points in the proceedings where everything could have been resolved:
1) Do not ignore court orders
If you lose a court case and are ordered to pay costs this is a very serious step in your dispute with another party. Do not ignore the court order and hope it will go away. Keep the lines of communication open with your creditors and try and arrange a payment plan, either outside of or inside of a DAS or Trust Deed. If you don’t, if you either pretend things are not happening or out of anger refuse to pay, your creditor has the power to take you back to court and sequester you, as Jim Devine found out. Hell hath no fury as a creditor scorned.
2) If you have to sell assets to pay your creditors, sell them.
Jim Devine owned two properties – one in London and the other in Scotland. As a result of a parliamentary investigation, his London home had been frozen pending the outcome of another court case, yet he never took steps to remortgaged or downsize his primary home to release some cash and pay the compensation he was ordered to. This is more common than you might think – many people never think their property can be taken from under them to pay a debt. However forcing a creditor to watch you enjoying an asset while they go without is never a good idea, and can lead to anger, bitterness, further court appearances and loss of your assets, even your very home.
3) Ask for help quickly
If you know that you can’t pay what you owe and you cannot sell your assets in time, don’t sit there hoping the problem will go away. It doesn’t, it just gets worse. Approach an Insolvency Practitioner and talk through the problem with them. In Jim’s case and like thousands of people before him in sticky financial situations, a Trust Deed could have protected him from his creditors and prevented him from being made bankrupt.
Trust Deeds can turn a really bad situation very quickly.
If you are a resident of Scotland and owe more than £10,000, a Trust Deed can help you pay back only what you can afford and then write off the rest of the outstanding debt.
For example, some of the advantages include:
No creditors hassling you
Once protected, a Trust Deed stops your creditors from pursuing you immediately – they can only communicate with your Insolvency Practitioner.
Trust Deeds doesn’t arouse the same feelings of shame or embarrassment that many people have about sequestration.
Some of your debt written off
You do not have to pay back all that you owe with a Trust Deed. You only pay back what you can afford over 36 months and the rest is written off.
Better financial management skills
Trust Deeds help you live within your means and give you a firm financial foundation for the future. There’s no chance of you reverting to old bad habits during a Trust Deed as a successful outcome relies on you developing new skills like budgeting.
You don’t have to be in a bad situation like Jim Devine, with court orders and sequestration hanging over you, to benefit from a Trust Deed. If you know that a debt you owe in unaffordable or will soon become so, talk to a debt help professional as quickly as possible and let them help you stop your problems from spiraling out of control. And whatever you do, don’t take a leaf out Jim’s book!
Other important things to consider with protected trust facts
Before making a decision about whether or not to make a deed of trust, you should seek expert advice on debts, as there are a number of considerations to consider, including:
A deed of trust is a legally binding agreement between you and your creditors.
As long as you abide by the terms of your protected trust, your creditors will not be able to take additional measures to recover the money you owe or have you declare bankruptcy.
You should check if it affects your work. A deed of trust is a form of insolvency and having one can lead to disciplinary action or dismissal in some jobs, such as financial services or the legal profession
If you are granted a deed of trust and you rent your property, the owner can rescind your lease
If you own a home, you may need to release capital from your property.
You will have to pay any excess income you have, after the essential living costs have been paid, in your trust deed for four years. You must inform the trustee if your personal or financial situation changes, for example, if you inherit some money or if you lose your job. Only the debts included in your deed of trust will be canceled at the end of it. If the deed of trust fails, there is a risk of bankruptcy.
You will have to pay a fee for the services of the insolvency practitioner who handles the deed of trust. This fee is normally deducted from your payments.