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How Long Does it Take to Liquidate a Company?

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How Long Does it Take to Liquidate a Company?

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Liquidation, a word often associated with the end of a business, is a process that involves winding down operations, paying off creditors, and distributing any remaining assets to the shareholders. 

But how long does this process actually take? And what factors contribute to the timeline?

This in-depth article explores these questions and more to provide comprehensive insights into the duration and processes of different types of liquidations.

How Long Does it Take to Liquidate a Company?

Determining the length of time it takes to liquidate a company is not a straightforward task as there are several variables that come into play.

Generally, the process can take anywhere from a few months to several years.

It greatly depends on the type of liquidation, the size and complexity of the company, the efficiency of the liquidator, and any legal complications that may arise.

Smaller companies with simple affairs may be liquidated within six to twelve months.

These businesses tend to have fewer assets and liabilities to handle and are less likely to face legal issues that could potentially delay the process.

On the other hand, larger corporations with complex structures and multiple streams of debts and assets can take significantly longer to liquidate. 

The intricacies involved in dissecting the business, settling debts, dealing with creditors, and resolving any legal disputes can stretch the process to several years.

Thus, it is crucial for any business facing liquidation to be prepared for a potentially lengthy procedure, requiring patience, diligence, and careful planning.

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How Long Does Members Voluntary Liquidation Take?

Members Voluntary Liquidation (MVL) is a process where the directors of a solvent company—that is, one that can pay off its debts—decide to bring business operations to an end. 

Often, this happens when the directors are looking to retire, or if they no longer wish to run the company.

In terms of timeline, an MVL usually takes between six months to a year.

During an MVL, the directors work alongside an insolvency practitioner, who guides them through the process of winding up the company.

This includes notifying creditors, selling off assets, and settling any remaining debts. 

After these tasks are completed, the remaining funds are distributed among the shareholders before the company is officially dissolved.

The duration of the process is heavily dependent on how quickly and efficiently these tasks can be accomplished.

Therefore, an MVL can sometimes be completed in a shorter timeframe if the company’s affairs are less complex and efficiently managed.

How Long Does Creditors Voluntary Liquidation Take?

Creditors Voluntary Liquidation (CVL) typically occurs when a company is insolvent and cannot pay its debts.

As such, the directors voluntarily choose to wind up the company, with the process often taking longer than an MVL, ranging anywhere from six months to two years, or even longer in more complex cases.

In a CVL, the process is controlled by an appointed liquidator who is responsible for selling the company’s assets and using the proceeds to repay creditors.

This process can be time-consuming, especially if the company has significant assets or if there are disputes over asset ownership.

Moreover, the liquidator is also required to conduct an investigation into the company’s affairs. 

They must establish whether any wrongful trading or fraudulent activities have taken place, a task which can add to the duration of the liquidation process.

As a result, CVLs can be a lengthy and intricate process that demands substantial time and resources.

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How Long Does Compulsory Liquidation Take?

Compulsory liquidation, as the name suggests, is not a voluntary process.

It’s typically initiated by an unpaid creditor who applies to the court for a winding-up order against the company.

This is often the most extended form of liquidation, with the process frequently lasting one to two years or more.

The duration of a compulsory liquidation process is generally longer because of the legal intervention and the complexity that comes with it.

Once the court grants a winding-up order, an official receiver or an appointed liquidator takes charge.

They are responsible for reviewing the company’s affairs, selling assets, repaying creditors, and investigating the company’s business activities. 

The investigation is exhaustive, aiming to uncover any evidence of misconduct or fraudulent trading.

Legal delays, coupled with these detailed investigations and possible legal proceedings against the directors, can substantially prolong the process.

What Happens During the Liquidation Process?

Liquidation begins with the passing of a resolution for winding up or the issuance of a court order.

This is followed by the appointment of a liquidator, an insolvency practitioner, who effectively takes control of the company’s assets and oversees the liquidation process.

The liquidator’s primary responsibilities include conducting a thorough review of the company’s financial status, identifying and selling off assets, repaying creditors in the order prescribed by law, and investigating the company’s affairs to ascertain if any wrongdoing has occurred.

This investigation process often involves interviewing the directors and other key personnel.

Throughout the liquidation, the liquidator maintains communication with the creditors, providing them with updates about the process and addressing any concerns they may have.

They may also need to manage any legal disputes or lawsuits linked to the company, which can significantly extend the liquidation timeline.

What Happens After the Liquidation?

After all assets have been liquidated, and the proceeds have been used to repay creditors, the company is officially dissolved.

At this point, the company ceases to exist and is removed from the Companies House register, meaning it can no longer trade or conduct any business activities.

The liquidator is responsible for submitting the necessary paperwork to the Companies House to confirm that the company has been fully liquidated and should be struck off the register.

Post liquidation, if any evidence of wrongful or fraudulent trading by the directors is discovered, they may face legal repercussions, including disqualification from acting as a director in the future.

Which is Faster, Liquidation or Dissolution?

In comparison to liquidation, dissolution is often a faster and less complex process.

Dissolution refers to the administrative process of closing down a company that is no longer active or needed, and it typically doesn’t involve the settling of debts with creditors.

If there are no complications, the dissolution process can be completed within three to six months.

On the other hand, liquidation is a formal insolvency process that involves the settling of the company’s affairs, including paying off debts and distributing any remaining assets to the shareholders.

Given the intricacies involved in this process, liquidation is generally lengthier and more detailed than dissolution.

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Final Notes On How Long it Takes to Liquidate a Company

Liquidation is a complex process with a timeline that can vary significantly depending on various factors such as the type of liquidation, the size of the company, the complexity of its financial affairs, and the efficiency of the liquidator.

Understanding these factors can help business owners prepare effectively for what lies ahead.

However, it is essential to remember that liquidation should be considered as a last resort.

Before making any decision, it’s advisable to seek professional guidance to explore all available options and make an informed choice that best suits the company’s circumstances.

For free confidential advice, get in touch today.


Hannah Paull

Hannah Paull

Hannah Paull is a co-director at Marchford with over 25 years experience as a trained accountant, including lecturing the AAT Accounting Qualification. After specialising in company closures and insolvency, Hannah has, for the last 5 years helped hundreds of directors of struggling limited companies with a wide range of solutions including company closures.


Hannah Paull

Hannah Paull

Hannah Paull is a co-director at Marchford with over 25 years experience as a trained accountant, including lecturing the AAT Accounting Qualification. After specialising in company closures and insolvency, Hannah has, for the last 5 years helped hundreds of directors of struggling limited companies with a wide range of solutions including company closures.
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