Trust deeds in Scotland
What is a trust deed
A trust deed is a voluntary agreement between you and the people you owe money to (also called your creditors). You agree to pay a regular amount of money towards your debts and at the end of a fixed time the rest of your debts will be written off.
All your belongings and property (your assets) are passed to someone who will look after your financial affairs. They are called your trustee. The trustee aims to pay your creditors as much as possible of the debt owed to them. This may involve some of your belongings or property being sold so that the money raised can be paid to your creditors.
A trust deed can become 'protected' if the majority of creditors are happy with the terms of the trust deed. This means that the trust deed is binding on all creditors and they cannot take any steps to recover the money owed to them.
If a trust deed is not 'protected' then it will not be binding on all of your creditors and they could still take action to recover the money you owe them.
A trust deed is only one of the options available to you if you have debt problems. You should get advice from a money adviser to help you decide what is the best option for you.
Check if you can speak to a money adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Or check where you can find free debt advice and a money adviser on the MoneyHelper website.
When a trust deed might be an option for you
A trust deed might be an option for you if you have:
debts of £5,000 or more
enough money to make regular payments towards your debts. You can't set up a trust deed if your only income is from benefits
belongings and property such as savings, investments, a car or a house. These can be sold so that the money raised can be paid to creditors.
Advantages of protected trust deeds
The advantages of protected trust deeds are:
no contact from people you owe money to - your trustee will deal with the people you owe money to (your creditors)
no more enforcement action - if you are thinking of setting up a trust deed, you can apply to the Accountant in Bankruptcy to stop your creditors taking any steps to recover the money you owe them, such as arresting your bank account. This is called a 'moratorium' and it lasts for 6 months. You can also apply for a moratorium if you are thinking of applying for bankruptcy or a debt payment programme under the Debt Arrangement Scheme. You can only apply for 1 moratorium in any 12 month period
ability to pay bills - you don’t have to show that you are unable to pay your bills as they fall due. This is sometimes called 'apparent insolvency'. You have to be able to show this in order to apply for bankruptcy (called sequestration in Scotland)
employment and public office - you are not barred from certain types of employment or public office as you would be under bankruptcy (called sequestration in Scotland)
borrowing money – you are not legally stopped from borrowing money (obtaining credit) like a mortgage or a credit card, although this may be difficult to get in practice
debts wiped out – your trust deed will usually come to an end after 4 years (called discharge). Most of your debts will be wiped out and you will not have to pay them back.
Disadvantages of protected trust deeds
The disadvantages of protected trust deeds are:
paying regular contributions – you will have to pay contributions towards your debts for at least 4 years
credit rating – having a trust deed will affect your credit rating for 6 years from the date the trust deed begins. This can make it harder to get credit like a mortgage or a loan in the future
selling your belongings and property – you may have to sell some of the things you own (your assets) such as your home
you can't be a company director – you can’t be the director of a limited company unless the terms of your trust deed allow it
self-employment - you might not be able to carry on running your own business. The trustee might arrange for someone else to run the business or they might sell the business
new money or property - if you receive any new money or property within 4 years of the start of your trust deed, these can be claimed by your trustee. Examples include PPI compensation or an inheritance
cooperation - if you don't cooperate with your trustee, they can apply to make you bankrupt.
Other things to consider about trust deeds
If you are considering setting up a trust deed, you will need to think about how much income you have to make contributions, what might happen to your home and the costs of a trust deed.
How much income do I need
You will usually need to have enough income left over after you have paid for essentials (called disposable income) to make a contribution towards your debts.
Disposable income is assessed by working out your usual income and expenditure over a month. Then you can see if you have any income left after you have paid for all your essentials.
You can't set up a trust deed if your only income is from benefits. If you have some other income as well as some benefits, any contribution you make towards your debts can't include any money from your benefits.
If you don’t have any assets, such as savings, or property such as a car or a house, then you will need to have enough disposable income to pay towards your debts during the existence of your trust deed.
If you have enough disposable income to be able to pay off your debts in full in less than 4 years, then you will not be able to set up a protected trust deed. A Debt Payment Programme under the Debt Arrangement Scheme may be a more suitable option in this situation.
What debts can't be included
Not all of your debts can be included in a trust deed. You cannot include:
court fines and other court orders, such as penalties and compensation orders
debts obtained fraudulently
maintenance payments to a spouse, civil partner or children
There is more information about what can and can't be included in a trust deed on mygov.scot.
What will happen to my home
If you own your own home and you set up a trust deed, you may have to sell it in order to raise money to pay towards your debts.
In some cases, if you have little or no equity in your home, you may be able to set up a type of protected trust deed which does not include your home. (The equity in your home is the amount of money that you would have left after selling your home and paying off the mortgage.) You can only exclude one home from your protected trust deed and it must be the only or the main place that you live.
If your trust deed does include your home, you have family living with you and your trustee does want to sell the home, you can apply to the sheriff court to ask for the sale to be refused or delayed for up to 3 years.
What happens to joint debts
If you share a debt with someone else this is called 'joint and several liability'. If you take out a trust deed the other person can be pursued for the whole debt. The joint debt is listed in the trust deed but no payments are made towards it by the trustee. It is possible for you both to have a trust deed but you should both discuss with the trustee whether or not this would be advantageous.
If the relationship has broken down then joint debts are one of the issues that should be discussed as part of all the financial circumstances of the relationship.
What are the costs of a trust deed
If you decide to set up a trust deed, you will need to see a licensed insolvency practitioner.
The insolvency practitioner will become the trustee for your trust deed. They will charge you a fee for setting up and running the trust deed. They are not allowed to charge their fees at an hourly rate. Instead they have to charge a single, fixed, upfront fee plus a percentage of the assets that they gather in as part of the running of the trust deed.
Insolvency practitioners’ fees vary and can be expensive. You might want to check the charges of a number of different insolvency practitioners before you decide which insolvency practitioner to use.
If you owe money to people or companies in the EU
Any debts you owe to people or companies in the EU might not be covered by a trust deed.
Your creditors could keep asking you for money, for example by calling you or sending you letters. If you live in the EU, they could take you to court in the EU.
From 1 January 2021, EU creditors have to sue in the UK rather than in the EU, even if they have an existing judgment. The UK will recognise EU judgements entered or started before 31 December 2020.
If you live in the UK but have a home in the EU with a mortgage from an EU lender, the lender could take you to court in the EU.
Get legal advice if you have creditors in the EU.
Alternatives to a trust deed
Trust deeds are not the only option to help you sort out problems with debts. Other options include:
a debt payment programme under the Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS) - this may suit you if you can afford to pay off your debts in full from your disposable income in less than 4 years. There is more information about DAS on our DAS page
bankruptcy (called sequestration in Scotland) – this may suit you if your financial situation has become intolerable because you can’t pay your debts as they fall due. You can apply for standard bankruptcy if you have debts of £3,000 or more. You can apply for 'Minimal Assets Process' (MAP) bankruptcy if you have debts of £1,500 or more and you have little or no disposable income or assets that can be used to raise money. Find out more about bankruptcy
voluntary agreement direct with your creditors – this is where you set up an informal repayment schedule with your creditors. It means that you are in control of your finances but it does also mean that you have to negotiate with all your creditors and if you aren’t able to keep to your repayment plan there is nothing to stop them taking action to recover the money you owe them.
If you are considering any of these options, you should get advice from a money adviser. Check if you can speak to a money adviser at your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Or check where you can find free debt advice and a money adviser on the MoneyHelper website.
There are free sources of advice, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux, money advice centres and law centres. There are also freephone helplines such as the National Debtline and the Stepchange Debt Charity helpline.
You can find more information about trust deeds on the Accountant in Bankruptcy website.
There's also a guide about trust deeds on the Accountant in Bankruptcy website.