Writ of Control | My Judgment Debtor has Died | What Next?



Enforcement can be tricky at the best of times. It the back end of litigation and the time when you should be looking forward to receiving what you are due from the court’s order for payment of your CCJ or other judgment.


But we all know life isn’t that straightforward and certainly not after the horrendous impact of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2021 when so many lives have been lost far too soon as folk have succumbed to the ravages of this wretched disease.


So, this blog piece addresses the sad situation where you as the Judgment Creditor are trying to enforce against a Judgment Debtor who has sadly died.


It may seem very harsh to talk about this, particularly in 2020 and 2021, but this has always been a difficult subject.


There is no data available to say how many times High Court Enforcement Officers meet this situation in carrying out their duties. Claire Sandbrook as Shergroup’s authorised High Court Enforcement Officer has only met it a couple of times in 40 years.


But as it can happen, and we have passed through the eye of the storm in a global pandemic we write about it just in case it does affect you.


It will affect your enforcement strategy if you have a judgment against a sole trader or an individual consumer. This debtor may have bought goods and/or services from you and not paid for them. They may have litigated against you and lost, and you have a costs order to enforce against them. You may be an employee of a sole trader who has won an Employment Tribunal Award, and before you get paid, your former employer has died.


The Positive News | Who Can Still Enforce Your Judgment

We need to say this straight away. If a judgment has been entered against your Judgment Debtor, or you have your final order in your Employment Tribunal proceedings, before the Judgment Debtor died, then you can still move forward to enforce that judgment or award against the estate of the deceased Judgment Debtor.


The mechanics of this are that the judgment becomes a debt of the deceased’s estate and the Executors or Administrators of the estate will have to deal with the situation.


The High Court Enforcement Officer can take control of the goods of the late Judgment Debtor which will be held by the Executors or Administrators. These goods may be in a business or residential setting.


High Court Enforcement Agents will attend the addresses permitted under the Taking Control of Goods Regulations to locate goods and take them into control in the normal way. Goods can be sold by auction or by private treaty depending on the nature and type of goods.


Antiques and collectables are often best sold by private treaty or by specialist auctioneers. Sometimes a member of the family may want to buy an item that is in the residuary estate and which has sentimental value. This sale becomes a sale by private treaty but will require an Order of the Court permitting the sale at the best price possible.


If goods are sold which achieve more than the value of the face of the Writ of Control, then once the judgment debt, interest, court fees, and High Court Enforcement Officer fees are discharged, the remaining balance will be returned to the Executors or Administrators to distribute in the normal way.


What if Only the Executors or Administrators Have Goods?

Goods belonging to the Executors and Administrators cannot be taken into legal control to pay the judgment debt of a deceased person.


A Writ of Control can be issued against Executors or Administrators, perhaps for non-payment of an invoice, or for costs order obtained, in the course of their handling the deceased’s affairs. However, if this happens then the goods taken into legal control must be the Executors or Administrators, and not the Judgment Debtor.


What Happens if You “Pop Your Clogs” Before You Are Paid?


In covering all the potential aspects of this sorry tale, if you are a judgment creditor with a judgment against a judgment debtor of any type, and you “pop your clogs” before seeing the money, then it may be cold comfort to know that a High Court Enforcement Officer can still enforce the judgment on behalf of your estate.


Summing Up

High Court Enforcement Officers and those working in their name, can offer you a personal and tactful approach when it comes to enforcing judgments in sensitive situations. When choosing a High Court Enforcement TEAM to look after your judgment in such situations that tact and empathy with the plight of the Judgment Debtor should come across.


At Shergroup we offer a service that takes all the circumstances into consideration and which ensures Executors, Administrators, family members and business colleagues know you are trying to do the right thing to enforce your judgment in difficult circumstances.


Call us on 0845 890 9200 for a chat on your next steps or email us at hub@shergroup.com.


I would recommend that, under any of these circumstances, you make sure the HCEO you work with will act with due consideration and discretion when dealing with the deceased’s family and friends.


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