In giving directions for the administration of the estate of the late entertainer Jimmy Savile, the High Court has acknowledged that the entirety of his £3.3 million fortune may well be exhausted by a large number of personal injury claims being pursued by those who claim to have suffered sexual abuse at his hands.
When Mr Savile died in October 2011, he left a will bequeathing his assets to various beneficiaries, including his niece and next-of-kin, Amanda McKenna. The residue of his estate was to pass to the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust. However, highly publicised allegations of child abuse against the star had resulted in an avalanche of personal injury claims being issued against his estate.
Almost 140 such claims had already been launched and, although the allegations against Mr Savile had yet to be tested before a judge, the Court noted, “There is no serious dispute that some, perhaps many, of the claims may be well-founded and meritorious. If such claims are substantiated, there is a serious possibility, to put it no higher, that they would exhaust the money remaining in the estate, leaving the individual beneficiaries and the Trust with nothing.”
However, it could not be assumed that that outcome would arise, and the Trust and beneficiaries had a legitimate interest in ensuring that the claims were properly scrutinised. They continued to maintain that a substantial portion of the estate may remain available for distribution to them under the will.
National Westminster Bank plc had been appointed by the will as executor of the estate and Mr Savile’s personal representative. However, the trustees of the Trust had applied under Section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985 for the bank’s replacement in those roles on grounds that it had failed to act in the interests or for the benefit of the Trust and the other beneficiaries.
In dismissing that application, the Court rejected a number of criticisms of the bank’s conduct and found that it had performed its duties appropriately. The Court also approved the bank’s scheme for administration of the estate, which was designed to achieve speedy and inexpensive resolution of existing and future personal injury claims against the estate.
Under Section 284(1) of the Insolvency Act 1986, the Court also ratified various expenses incurred by the bank in executing the will and administering the estate, including the substantial legal costs that had been incurred in relation to the personal injury claims.