When someone goes missing, it can be hard for their loved ones to know what to do about their money and affairs. Until now, it hasn’t been possible for anyone to legally manage a missing person’s affairs on their behalf. However, the law on this has recently changed to help those left behind.

The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 came into full force on 31 July 2019. It’s often referred to as ‘Claudia’s Law’, as the family of missing York resident Claudia Lawrence are among those who have campaigned to bring this new law into force.

How does the Guardianship Act work?

Under the new law, it is possible to apply for a court order to be appointed as guardian over a missing person’s money and estate. Applications will be accepted once an individual has been missing for at least ninety days.

When a guardian is appointed, they’ll be responsible for making decisions in the best interests of the missing person. They may therefore be able to take actions such as:

  • Selling, renting or re-mortgaging property.
  • Investing money.
  • Recovering debts owed to the missing person.
  • Bringing or continuing legal proceedings on behalf of the missing person.
  • Giving gifts that the missing person would likely have made, such as for birthdays or weddings of family members.

The Courts will decide what rights a guardian should be given in each individual case.

Who will be entitled to apply for Guardianship?

If your spouse, civil partner, parent, child or sibling has been missing for more than ninety days, you will be entitled to apply for guardianship. Other people may apply, but will have to demonstrate to the Court that they have “sufficient interest” in the missing person’s affairs to be considered as a guardian. What will count as “sufficient interest” will depend on the facts of each particular case, but could for example be the missing person’s partner, or a business partner.

The right person to be appointed will be different in each case, and will depend on the family and relationships the individual in question has left behind.

If you think you may be entitled to apply for guardianship on behalf of a missing person, please get in touch.

We will be able to advise you on the likelihood of your application being accepted, or whether it might be best if it were made by another family member.

What if I think my missing loved one has died?

If your loved one has been missing for seven years or more, or you have clear evidence that they have passed away, you may wish to consider applying for a Declaration of Presumed Death, to allow you to administer their estate.

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