Does A Bankruptcy Trustee Seize Your Bank Account?

Category: Personal Bankruptcy (6) comments

bankruptcy bank accountWhen you file for bankruptcy, your trustee is required to seize your assets and distribute them to your creditors.  While technically any money in your bank account is an asset to be surrendered to your bankruptcy trustee, in most cases your trustee will not automatically seize your bank account if you file bankruptcy in Canada.

Exemptions For Reasonable Expenses

Your trustee will allow you to retain in your bank account a reasonable amount of money to cover your typical living expenses. This is particularly true if you have a small amount in your bank account from your recent pay and that amount is earmarked for current needs.

Here is an example:

Joe is filing bankruptcy on the 30th day of the month.  He has $1,200 in his bank account.  On the 1st of the month, Joe will pay his rent for the month of $1,000.  So Joe doesn’t really have $1,200; he only has $200, because $1,000 is already “spoken for”, to pay his rent for next month.

How much is reasonable?  That will depend on your unique situation and the province you live in. In Ontario, a typical guideline would be expenses you would be incurring over the next few weeks.  The amount you will be paying for rent, groceries, and transportation between now and your next paycheque would be reasonable, and under typical circumstances would not be seized by your trustee. Bankruptcy exemptions differ by province, including those for a reasonable amount of cash you can keep on hand for living expenses.

When You Lose Your Money

Some people carry a balance in their bank account to cover emergencies or to avoid banking fees. This amount of money could be considered an asset of your estate and subject to seizure by your bankruptcy trustee. In addition, savings accounts and unprotected funds outside of any provincial bankruptcy exemption limits are also at risk.

In Canada, RRSPs are exempt assets in a bankruptcy (except for contributions made in the past 12 months) .

What To Do

If you are concerned about any bank account or investments you have, discuss it with your trustee.  Ask them how much you may retain in your bank account and what happens to your investments, so that you know in advance what will happen in your unique situation.

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  1. Troy H.

    I have a home that is significantly underwater. I am considering walking away from home and fighting it out in courts. My wife has significant assets but she did not sign mortgage and has no interest in covering my debts, understandably. We share bank accounts currently, but my financial situation has deteriorated as of late and we will need to separate funds. Will she be liable in any way for my debts?

    1. J. Douglas Hoyes Post author

      Hi Troy. Your wife is only responsible for any debts she has signed for. If she did not sign for the mortgage, she is not liable for the mortgage. If you have joint bank accounts she would be liable for any overdrafts or debts associated with those accounts.

  2. Mark S.


    I am in my last two months in bankruptcy and received a request from my trustee to pay a significant amount of additional money in a lump sum prior to receiving my discharge. During my bankruptcy I received a second vehicle as a gift worth 10,000 and have now sold it to cover the additional lump sum. The additional amount requested was to cover my increase in pay over the length of my bankruptcy which was greater than originally reported.
    Will my trustee now request half of the amount received from the sale of the vehicle as well given the total amount will be used to cover the request anyway?

    1. J. Douglas Hoyes Post author

      The legal answer is that property you acquire while an undischarged bankrupt, such as a $10,000 car, becomes an asset of your estate, and subject to certain exemption limits may become the property of the trustee, if they become aware of it.


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