Missing Persons Law
Every year, around one hundred and seventy thousand people are reported missing in the UK. Most of these people are found within a few days or weeks, but some people remain missing indefinitely.
If you are a family member of a missing person, we understand just how incredibly difficult a position you’re in. Not only are you dealing with the grief of a loved one being missing, there are also a whole host of challenging practicalities to deal with. When someone goes missing, they often leave behind unresolved personal affairs. Their partner, parents, siblings or children usually need to manage these practicalities and may have to take legal steps in order to be able to do so.
How can we help you with Missing Persons Law?
We understand just how important it is to get the help and support you need quickly.
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. This law makes it possible to apply for a court order to be appointed as guardian over a missing person’s money and estate. Applications can 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 out 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.
There are no specific rules on who is able to apply for guardianship over a missing person, but whoever applies will need to prove to the Court that they have ‘sufficient interest’ in the missing person’s affairs. If you are considering making a guardianship application, we will be able to advise you on the likelihood of it being accepted, or whether it might be best if the application was made by another individual instead.
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Presumption of Death
When an individual has been missing for seven years or more, it’s possible to apply for a Declaration of Presumed Death. It may also be possible to apply for this document in cases where an individual has been missing for less than seven years but there’s clear evidence to suggest that they’ve died. These applications are made to the High Court under the Presumption of Death Act 2013.
The granting of the Declaration of Presumed Death will also start the process of allowing a Grant of Administration to be obtained. This means that you will be able to deal with the estate of the missing person, either in accordance with their Will if they left one, or with the Intestacy Rules if they did not. There are also some very practical benefits of applying for a Declaration of Presumed Death. This document enables the dissolution of the missing person’s marriage or civil partnership.
In most cases, applications for Declarations of Presumed Death are made by the following:
● A spouse.
● Civil partner.
● Child or sibling.
If the missing person doesn’t have any close relatives, then ‘a person of sufficient interest’ (such as a distant relative) may apply instead.
The High Court will decide whether or not these applicants have sufficient interest for their application to be granted. We can advise on whether your application is likely to be successful.
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