Bankruptcy is the status of a debtor who has been declared by judicial process to be unable to pay his debts.
Although sometimes used indiscriminately to mean insolvency, the terms have distinct legal significance. Insolvency, as used in most legal systems, indicates the inability to meet debts. Bankruptcy, on the other hand, results from a legal adjudication that the debtor has filed a petition or that creditors have filed a petition against him.
Bankruptcy laws were enacted to provide and govern an orderly and equitable liquidation of the estates of insolvent debtors. This purpose has remained an important aim of bankruptcy legislation since the Middle Ages. Because in the past bankruptcy was coupled with the loss of civil rights and imposition of penalties upon fraudulent debtors, the designation bankrupt came to be associated with dishonesty, casting a stigma on persons who were declared bankrupts. Eventually, however, bankruptcy legislation was extended to provide procedures for the adjustment of debts so as to avoid liquidation and for the rehabilitation of insolvent debtors. Modern bankruptcy laws, therefore, include detailed provisions for preventive compositions, arrangements, or corporate reorganizations of various types. In fact, the salvage of an enterprise in financial difficulties has become the principal focus of bankruptcy legislation with particular concern for the maintenance of employment opportunities and the protection of members of the labour force.
- Encyclopædia Britannica. "bankruptcy. (2011).". Primary Contributor: Stefan Albrecht Riesenfeld. Referenced 2011-11-15.