Missing presumed dead – new help for the families left behind

Latest blog from our Wills, Trusts & Probate  department.

Approximately 250,000 people are reported missing across the UK every year. Unfortunately, many of these do not return leaving their families make the difficult decision to continue with their lives on the presumption that their loved ones have died.

Usually when a person dies, a death certificate is required to obtain the information required for a Grant of Probate. Without a body, a death certificate will not usually be issued and so legally, the missing person is still treated as being alive. This means that grieving families are forced to follow various complicated procedures to deal with different aspects of the missing person’s property and legal affairs.

Today, the implementation of the Presumption of Death Act 2013 will improve the process of dealing with the missing person’s assets where it can be presumed that they will not be coming back. The new Act enables families to apply to the High Court for a “declaration of presumed death” where a missing person

  1. is thought to have died; or
  2. has not been known to be alive for at least 7 years.

The declaration provides families with the means of administering the assets of the missing person in the usual way and brings the missing person’s marriage or civil partnership to an end. Whilst the application for a declaration can be issued by anybody, if the applicant is not a spouse, civil partner, child, parent or sibling they must satisfy the court that they have a sufficient interest in the declaration. What will constitute a “sufficient interest” is yet to be seen.

It is hoped that this streamlined process will allow those left behind to grieve the loss of the missing person without the added stress of numerous court hearings. The legislation was driven by the Missing People’s Missing Rights campaign which also calls for a guardianship mechanism whereby families are given the legal right to maintain and manage the missing person’s assets in the hope of their return. The Ministry of Justice is currently running a consultation as to whether such a system should be implemented. You can give your views here. The consultation will close on 18 November 2014.

Missing People provide a range of services to help and support those dealing with the trauma of the disappearance of a friend or loved one and those thinking of running away. For more information, visit their website

For further information please contact a member of our Wills, Trusts & Probate department.

Myerson Solicitors LLP provide specialist advice relating to wills, probate, probate disputes, inheritance tax planning and powers of attorney to clients in Manchester and Cheshire.



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