Wills & Private Client

Managing The Affairs Of Missing Persons

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Managing The Affairs Of Missing Persons

Presumption of Death Act 2013 and The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017

There can be few things in life more distressing than for a family member to be missing.  As the charity Missing People say it is “Living in Limbo”.

Before 2014, it was assumed a person was still alive for the seven years after they had last been seen.  After seven years an application could be made to the Court to apply to deal with the person’s assets as if they were dead by way of a Probate application. There was strict criteria that had to be met and including proof of the attempts to find the missing person. But that in itself was not the same as a death certificate and not accepted as “proof” of death.

However, that changed in 2013 with the Presumption of Death Act 2013.  This at least gave families the right to apply for what was in effect the equivalent of a death certificate, so they could at least deal with the missing person’s affairs as if they were dead.

But not all families would want to think of their loved one as being dead and would live in hope of them returning.  How could they deal with the missing person’s affairs then while they waited for their hopeful return?  Thankfully, new legislation which managed to pass through Parliament before it was dissolved for the election has helped.

The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 received the Royal Assent on 27th April which, when fully implemented in 2018, will enable families of a missing person to apply for a Guardianship Order to manage the missing person’s financial affairs whilst they are missing.  It won’t help the emotional burden of a missing relative but it goes a long way to filling what many considered a gap in the law by enabling the family to deal with practical matters until the hopeful return of the missing person.

The National Crime Agency* report that in 2012-13 there were 306,000 reported missing persons.  Thankfully 89% were found within 48 hours and 97% found safe and well.  But for the remaining 3% this legislation will hopefully make a difference in an otherwise unthinkable situation.

We hope it is not a situation you may ever have to face, but if you do we are here to try and help you through the Guardianship process.

The Charity “Missing Persons”  can be found at www.missingpeople.org.uk  and contacted on 020 8392 4590.

  

*http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/news/475-one-recorded-every-two-minutes-missing-persons-figures-release

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