While the interim preservation and management of the estate is conducted by or under the direct supervision of officers appointed by and responsible to the Board of Trade, the ultimate realization and distribution of the assets devolve upon the trustee appointed by the creditors. But besides acting as receiver prior to the first meeting of creditors, the official receiver also becomes trustee by operation of law on the making of an order of adjudication. He vacates the office when a trustee is appointed by the creditors, and certified by the Board of Trade, but again becomes trustee on the creditors' trustee being released, dying, resigning or being removed from office. As the bankrupt's property vests in the trustee for the time being, and passes from trustee to trustee by operation of law, and without any formal act of conveyance, the continuity of the office is thus secured.
A trustee may be appointed by a majority in value of the creditors voting, at the first or any subsequent meeting, or the appointment may be left to the committee of inspection. In either case the appointment is subject to confirmation by the Board of Trade, who may object on the ground that the creditors have not acted in good faith in the interests of the general body, or that the person appointed is not fit to act, or occupies such a position in relation to the debtor, to any creditor, or to the estate, as makes it difficult for him to act with impartiality, or that in any previous case he has been removed from office for misconduct or for failure without good cause to render his accounts for audit. An appeal from such objection to the High Court lies at the instance of a majority in value of the creditors, but in the absence of an appeal it is fatal to the appointment. Before being confirmed, the trustee-elect must also furnish security to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade, and such security must be kept up to the amount originally fixed, or to such lesser amount as that department may require throughout the tenure of the trusteeship, failing which the trustee is liable to be removed from office.
Where the creditors fail to appoint a trustee, the Board of Trade may do so, but such appointment may at any time be superseded by the creditors.
The trustee may be removed by the creditors at a meeting summoned for the purpose without reason assigned, or by the Board of Trade for misconduct, or for incapacity or failure to perform his duties, or on either of the other personal grounds of objection to which the appointment is open. But the removal is in like manner subject to appeal at the instance of creditors. If a receiving order is made against a trustee he thereby vacates office. He may also, with the consent of a general meeting of creditors, resign, but his resignation does not operate as a release from his liability to account for his administration.
The trustee is required to take immediate possession of the bankrupt's property, including deeds, books and accounts, and has the powers of a receiver in the High Court for the purpose of enforcing delivery. After payment of the costs of administration it is his duty to distribute the estate in dividends as speedily as possible. He may also, and with the sanction of the committee, or, where there is none, with that of the Board of Trade, carry on the business so far as is necessary to a beneficial winding-up, institute or defend legal proceedings, employ a solicitor to do any business previously sanctioned by the same authority, compromise debts and claims, raise money on mortgage, sell property on credit, or divide the estate where practicable among the creditors in its existing form. He may, without special sanction, but subject to any directions which may be given by the creditors in general meeting, or failing them by the committee, sell the property or any part of it for cash, including business goodwill and book debts, and either by public auction or private treaty, and generally exercise all the powers which the bankrupt might before adjudication have exercised in relation to the property, or which are by the Bankruptcy Act conferred on the trustee.
Where any part of the property is held subject to onerous obligations, such as the payment of rent, etc., the trustee may disclaim the same, subject in certain cases to the leave of the court, and the disclaimer operates to determine all interest in or liability in respect of the property on the part of the estate. The trustee is required to keep a record book (which is commenced by the official receiver), containing minutes of the proceedings in the bankruptcy, and a cash book in the prescribed form, in which all receipts and payments by him must be entered. All monies received must forthwith be paid into an account at the Bank of England, entitled the "Bankruptcy Estates Account," which is under the control of the Board of Trade, unless where in special circumstances the sanction of that department is obtained to the opening of a local banking account, but in no circumstances must estate monies be paid to the trustee's private account. When monies are required for the purpose of the estate, special cheques or money orders are issued by the Board of Trade on the application of the trustee.