Personal representatives—personal liability and relief
Personal representatives—personal liability and relief

The following Wills & Probate guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Personal representatives—personal liability and relief
  • Liability
  • To protect against claims of unknown beneficiaries/creditors
  • Against claims of missing beneficiaries/creditors
  • Other protection for the PRs
  • Relief from liability
  • Limitation periods

Liability

Personal representatives (PRs) may find themselves liable for their acts or omissions in respect of their dealings with:

  1. third parties

  2. beneficiaries of the deceased’s Will

  3. beneficiaries on an intestacy

In the course of administration a PR is personally liable for:

  1. performing their obligations under any contracts they enter into

  2. the torts they commit

  3. any loss to the estate resulting from their breach of duty (a devastavit)

A PR is not liable for any act or default of an agent, nominee or custodian unless the PR has failed to comply with the duty of care imposed by section 1 of the Trustee Act 2000 (TrA 2000) when either:

  1. entering into the arrangements, or

  2. reviewing them

The general rule is that a PR is responsible only for their own acts or omissions and not vicariously for the acts of their co-representatives.

To protect against claims of unknown beneficiaries/creditors

PRs unaware of the claims of a beneficiary or creditor at the time of distribution remain personally liable to any unpaid beneficiary or creditor (Knatchbull v Fearnhead (1837) 3 My & Cr 122, 1 Jur 687).

By complying with the requirements of section 27 of the Trustee Act 1925 (TA 1925), the PRs can protect themselves against such liability by giving notice of their intention to distribute the estate.

Note: TA 1925, s 27 only affords