Families of missing people will have new rights following law changes taking effect from, 1 October 2014.
Families and next of kin will be able to apply for a Presumption of Death Certificate (made through the Presumption of Death Act 2013 and apply in England and Wales) for a loved one who has gone missing and is presumed dead. Similar legislation is already in force in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The new declaration will work in the same way as a Death Certificate and will allow families of a missing person to handle their estate and financial affairs. The process has been complex in the past and grieving families have struggled to close bank accounts, stop direct debts and generally wind up affairs.
The certificate will be issued by the court if the person has been missing for seven years or if there is good reason to believe he or she is dead.
The declaration of presumed death will also mean that any marriage or civil partnership will come to an end in the same way as if the missing person had died. Property can also be inherited under the missing person’s will.
Justice Minister Lord Faulks QC said:
Today marks a crucial step forward for families facing up to the terrible situation of losing someone without a trace. We have made sure that while they are dealing with the heartache of a loved one going missing, they no longer have to face such a daunting task to deal with the practical issues that are also created.
Rachel Damianou, Trust, Wills and Probate partner at Wrigley Claydon said:
Dealing with a loved one’s estate is traumatic enough without this added stress. At Wrigley Claydon we try generally to make the whole process as smooth and painless as possible in all cases we deal with.
The Ministry of Justice is currently consulting on whether a system should also be created under which a person can be appointed to deal with the property and affairs of a missing person who is not presumed dead; and, if so, how and on what terms.
If you feel your loved one may qualify for a Presumption of Death Certificate, please contact our Trust, Wills and Probate team, Rachel Damianou or Jyoti Patel by calling 0161 624 6811. We understand the delicate issues around this type of case and will do our very best to handle your enquiry with due care and respect.
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