Our client came to us to obtain a Declaration of Presumed Death for her brother, who’d been missing for more than thirty years. She and her family had accepted it would be very unlikely for him to be found after such a long period. They wanted to get some closure on the issue, both for their own peace of mind and so that they could legally deal with the financial affairs her brother had left behind.
Families of missing persons can apply for a Declaration of Presumed Death if their loved one has been missing for over seven years. It’s also possible to apply if a loved one has been missing for less time than this but there is clear evidence that they have died.
Once a declaration has been granted, families then have the authorisation to administer the missing person’s estate. If the missing person was married or in a civil partnership, a Declaration of Presumed Death allows this to be dissolved.
As our client’s brother had been missing for such a long time with absolutely no contact with his family, this looked like it would be a very straight-forward case. We put together an application for the declaration, gathered together all the relevant evidence and arranged a date for this to be submitted to the court.
However, days before the application was due to be submitted, the unexpected happened. Our client’s family were contacted by a London council. A man had been found dead there a few months earlier and the council believed the man was our client’s brother.
After some further investigation by the council and our client’s family, it was confirmed that the deceased man was indeed our client’s brother. They discovered he had been living in London for many years under an assumed name.
This was, of course, a huge shock to our client and her family. We were able to offer support through this difficult time and help them to navigate the many administrative and legal tasks that occur following a death.
Though there was no longer any reason to submit the application for the Declaration of Presumed Death, our client and her family were able to gain some closure from learning the truth about their loved one and being directly involved in laying him to rest.