How to protect Executors from civil claims based on pre-death acts

I am dealing with the estate of a convicted criminal who died in prison shortly after he had started his sentence. I have been looking for ways to protect the Executors from any civil claims being brought against the estate by the deceased’s victims. I am aware that the Executors can only be sued in their capacity as PRs, not personally, and that they will only be liable to the extent of the assets in the estate.

My initial thoughts are that the Court’s guidance under CPR 64 could be sought once the Executors are in a position to wind up the estate. This may result in the Executors being asked to keep a contingency fund pending expiry of the limitation periods, which would protect the Executors in case the contingency turns out to be insufficient. An indemnity from the residuary beneficiary (a charity) could also help.

Are members aware of any other steps the Executors could take before they make distributions from the estate?

Hauke Harrack

Are the executors already on notice of any claims?

If not, I would be inclined to rely upon complying with the notice requirements of s.27 Trustee Act 1925 as, legally, the claims of his victims are no different from claims by any other party.

I would be reluctant to look to the charity for an indemnity in case there is a need to call upon that indemnity and the charity has already spent the funds. That can become a PR nightmare for all involved.

If s.27 notices are/have been placed, and no sufficient notice of claims has been received by the time the executors are ready to distribute the estate, it may be appropriate to seek a “quickie” from Chancery counsel just to confirm they can proceed with the distribution. Any claims arising after the estate has been distributed will then need to be addressed by the charity as the executors should be able to plead the defence of plene administravit.

Paul Saunders