Order of Payment of Creditors in Liquidation – Understanding the Process

a table with documents showing order of payment for creditors

When a company faces insurmountable financial difficulties, it may be compelled to undergo the challenging process of liquidation. This process involves winding up the company’s affairs, settling outstanding debts, and distributing the remaining assets among creditors. However, understanding the intricacies of the order of payment in liquidation becomes crucial for both directors and creditors.

In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the Order of payment of creditors in liquidation, exploring the positions and priorities of secured creditors, preferential creditors, and unsecured creditors and who is paid first. By familiarizing ourselves with these terms, such as”unsecured creditor,” “secured creditors,” and “preferential creditors,” we can gain a deeper understanding of the process. It’s important to maximise the interests of creditors once you enter insolvency, otherwise you may be open to accusations of wrongful or unlawful trading.

We will define and provide an overview of the order of payment in liquidation, highlighting its significance within the broader context of company liquidation, the liquidation process and the Insolvency Act. We will explore the roles of secured creditors, unsecured creditors, and preferential creditors, examining how they are positioned in the order of payment and what factors influence their treatment.

Then we will shift the focus to understanding the liquidation and insolvency process itself. We will delve into the role of an insolvency practitioner, who plays a crucial role in managing the process and ensuring the orderly distribution of assets among creditors. We will discuss the realization of assets, the process of proving claims, and the calculation and distribution of dividend payments with multiple creditors.

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Definition and Overview

To comprehend the order of payment in liquidation, it is crucial to define and understand its significance within the broader context of company liquidation. The order of payment refers to the predetermined sequence in which creditors are repaid during the process. It establishes a hierarchy that ensures fairness and transparency in the distribution of available assets to creditors.

In the order of payment of liquidation, various categories of creditors hold different positions and priorities. Let’s explore them:

Secured Creditors

Secured creditors occupy the highest priority in the order of payment. These creditors hold a specific security interest, such as a mortgage or charge, over the company or debtor’s property or assets. Their position as secured creditors gives them the right to claim and realize their security to recover their outstanding debt.

Within this category, two subcategories exist: fixed charge and floating charge. A fixed charge refers to a specific asset that is pledged as security, such as property or machinery. The proceeds from the sale of the asset secured by a fixed charge are used to repay the creditor. On the other hand, a floating charge refers to a more general charge over a class of company assets, such as inventory or receivables. In the event of liquidation, the floating charge “crystallizes” and becomes fixed, enabling the creditor to claim and realize those assets.

To explore further details about the liquidation process. Read our article here.

Preferential Creditors

Following secured creditors, preferential creditors hold the next position in the order of payment. Preferential creditors enjoy legal priority over unsecured creditors, ensuring their claims are settled before unsecured creditor claims are considered. They are individuals or entities with specific statutory rights that grant them this priority status.

Some examples of preferential debts include employee claims, salaries, holiday pay, employee national insurance contributions and certain income tax and liabilities. These obligations are given preferential treatment to safeguard the interests of employees and prevent exploitation during the liquidation process.

Unsecured Creditors

Unsecured creditors occupy the lowest priority position in the order of payment. They do not possess any specific security interest or preferential rights. These creditors include suppliers, contractors, trade creditors, credit cards, financial institutions, and other asset-based lenders.

In the event of liquidation, unsecured creditors face a higher risk of not fully recovering their debts compared to secured and preferential creditors with a fixed amount. However, their claims are still considered, and any available funds remaining after satisfying secured and preferential creditor debts are distributed among unsecured creditors on a pro-rata basis.

Understanding the positions and priorities of secured creditors, preferential creditors, and unsecured creditors in the order of payment is crucial for both directors and other creditors involved in the liquidation process. In the next section, we will delve into the role of an insolvency practitioner and the process of asset realization.

A proportion of the proceeds of assets available for floating charges is also set aside for unsecured creditors.

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The Role of an Insolvency Practitioner

In the liquidation process, an insolvency practitioner plays a pivotal role in overseeing and managing the affairs of the company. These licensed professionals, appointed as liquidators, possess expertise in insolvency law and procedures. Their primary responsibility is to act in the best interests of all creditors and ensure the orderly winding-up of the company.

Insolvency practitioners are entrusted with various tasks during the process. They assess the company’s financial situation, determine its assets and liabilities, and formulate a strategy for the orderly realization of assets and repayment of creditors. Their role involves acting as a bridge between the company, its directors, and the creditors.

Additionally, insolvency practitioners facilitate the process of proving claims submitted by creditors. They carefully examine the validity and value of each claim, considering the relevant legal and financial aspects. This meticulous assessment ensures the fair treatment of all creditors and the accuracy of the order of payment.

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Realization of Assets

One of the crucial steps in the insolvent liquidation process is the realization of assets. Insolvency practitioners, in collaboration with relevant professionals, undertake the appraisal and efficient liquidation of the company’s assets. These assets may include property, equipment, inventory, intellectual property, and any other valuable possessions.

The objective of asset realization is to maximize the value of the assets to generate sufficient funds for the repayment of creditors. Insolvency practitioners employ various strategies to achieve this, such as conducting auctions, engaging in private sales, or utilizing the expertise of specialized asset-based lenders. The proceeds generated from the sale of assets contribute to the available funds for distribution among creditors according to the order of payment.

Proving Claims

Creditors seeking repayment during the process are required to submit proof of their claims to the insolvency practitioner. This process of proving claims is crucial in determining the legitimacy and value of each creditor’s claim. It ensures that the order of payment accurately reflects the creditors’ positions and priorities.

Creditors must provide comprehensive documentation and evidence to support their claims. The insolvency practitioner reviews the claims, verifies their validity, and incorporates them into the order of payment based on their respective positions. It is essential for creditors to follow the prescribed procedures and meet the submission deadlines to ensure their claims are considered.

Dividend Payments

Once the assets are realized, and claims are proven, the insolvency practitioner proceeds with making dividend payments to the creditors. Dividends represent the distribution of available funds among the creditors according to their positions in the order of payment.

The calculation of dividends follows the principles of fairness and proportionality. The insolvency practitioner determines the total value of outstanding loans and proven claims and calculates the percentage of repayment that each creditor will receive. The dividends are typically paid in instalments as the funds become available.

It’s important to note that the liquidation process, including the roles of insolvency practitioners, the realization of assets, proving claims, and dividend payments, is governed by legal frameworks, such as the Insolvency Act. These frameworks provide guidance and ensure compliance with legal requirements throughout the liquidation process.

By understanding the responsibilities of insolvency practitioners and the crucial steps of asset realisation and proving claims, directors and creditors can actively participate in the liquidation process. In the next section, we will address common FAQs surrounding the order of payment in liquidation proceedings, providing further insights and clarification.

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What happens if there are insufficient funds to pay all creditors?

In cases where the available funds are insufficient to satisfy the claims of all creditors, the order of payment dictates the priority in which creditors will be paid. Secured creditors and preferential creditors are given priority, while unsecured creditors may receive a lower percentage or no repayment at all than preferred creditors, depending on the available funds.

Can a creditor with a fixed charge rank higher than a secured creditor?

Yes, in certain circumstances, a creditor with a fixed charge may have a higher ranking than a general secured creditor. This is because the creditors with a fixed charge creates a specific claim over a particular asset, giving the creditor holding the fixed charge priority in recovering their debt from the proceeds of that asset’s sale.

Are connected unsecured creditors treated differently in the order of payment?

Connected unsecured creditors, such as directors or shareholders of the company, are generally treated equally to other unsecured creditors in the order of payment. However, specific legal provisions may apply to prevent preferential treatment or to address any potential conflicts of interest.

What happens to unsecured debts in the liquidation process?

Unsecured debts are considered in the order of payment but hold a lower payment priority compared to secured creditors and preferential debts. Unsecured creditors may receive a proportionate repayment based on the available funds after satisfying the claims of secured creditors and preferential creditors. However, the actual percentage of repayment can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the insolvent company.

Do credit card companies and other financial institutions fall under unsecured creditors?

Yes, credit card companies and banks are typically categorised as unsecured creditors in the liquidation process. Their claims for outstanding debts would be considered in the order of payment, following the claims of secured and preferential creditors.

What role does Companies House play in the liquidation process?

Companies House is the official government register of companies in the UK. In the liquidation process, it plays a significant role in recording and documenting the details of the company’s liquidation. It maintains the public record of the company’s status, including the appointment of liquidators and the filing of relevant documents.

Understanding these frequently asked questions provides further clarity on the order of payment in liquidation and addresses common concerns that directors and creditors may have. It is essential to consult with professionals specializing in insolvency matters to ensure compliance with legal requirements and to make well-informed decisions during the liquidation process.


The primary sources for this article are listed below.

Liquidate your limited company: Overview – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Details of our standards for producing accurate, unbiased content can be found in our editorial policy here.

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