Legal and financial advice when someone is missing

When someone is missing, it can have a significant impact on your financial situation. This could be because they were the main earner, or that you are now impacted in other ways due to them being missing. We know that every situation is personal, and there is no one-size-fits-all advice which works for everyone.

Where to start

Make a list, or possibly a few lists. It may not be easy to focus with everything going on, so do what you can to carve out a bit of quiet time when you can sit down and make a note of your financial situation. This can be with pen and paper, on a note app on your phone or even voice notes to yourself. Whatever works for you, and is in a format that will help you. Once you have the list of all your expenses, you’ll need to make another one which includes who you need to contact in case you need to negotiate changes to your payment plans or alternative ways to pay.

What to note down

Everyone’s finances will be different, so this is not an exhaustive list, however it is a good place to start and build on.

  • List of accounts – many people now have multiple personal banking and savings accounts, or pre-paid online accounts such as Revolut. Make a list of all the ones you know about, this will help to hunt down any bill payments you need to prepare for, and could also be useful to the police.
  • List of income – whether this is you salary, welfare support payments, money from other sources such as renting a spare room etc. Make a note of everything you have coming in, and what parts of it you will be able to access.
  • Rent/Mortgage – the amount, who they are paid to, and how you pay them such as direct debit or logging into an online portal. Depending on who managed this previously, you may not know the answer. That’s okay, you are likely able to find out by looking at an old bank statement and finding the payment on it. If you have been paying your rent through an online portal, the names are not always the same as the landlord. Try putting the name on the bank statement into google to see if you then recognise the company.
  • Household bills – Council Tax, water, gas, electricity, telephone, TV subscriptions, internet, disposal costs (such as paying for a garden waste bin), insurance.
  • Living costs – food, travel, school expenses such as clubs and lunches, parking permits, car insurance, repair plans, prescriptions, life insurance. It’s important to remember to maintain payments for any insurance policies, especially life insurance, as any break in payment could lead to you no longer having the cover you need.
  • Loans and credit cards – list all of the lenders and details of payment amounts include due dates.
  • Aany other payment you know will be coming up in the next few weeks, or that you have to budget for if it’s further in the future.

This is a long list. Which is why it’s important to give yourself some time and space to go through them. It’s also possible you may see other expenses you did not know about, or amounts you did not realise. If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out to a friend or family member for support, and of course you can talk to us too. You might need to take a few breaks before the list is complete, this can be useful for some people, as often something else may pop into your head when you are not focusing so hard.

Why to make this list

This will help you budget, prepare all the information needed to apply for any welfare support you can access and if needed, negotiate with companies for payment holidays or pausing of interest rates while your loved one is missing. Having a list can also help those who are supporting you, such as if they know you need to pay a certain bill using a payment card in the local shop they visit, it’s something simple they can help with which takes one thing off your list.

Who to tell first

Work through your list and prioritise agencies into the following lists; things I could lose (home, food, benefits, car, insurance etc), things that will have an impact (debt, credit cards etc). You’d need to focus on the ‘things I could lose’ list first, as not communicating with them could lead to severe financial difficulties for you, and possibly legal issues if you do not keep agencies such as the Department For Work and Pensions or HMRC up to date should your circumstances change.

Not having enough money

If you are in financial difficulty, there are several agencies who can give you advice and support about what you may be entitled to. There could be financial support from the government, your local authority or even a trust who you could apply to. Visit citizens advice for more information around financial support and benefits. (link to ca)
Some companies that you have to pay regularly may be able to help if you let them know what is happening. There is no legal duty for companies to consider missing people unless you apply for a Guardianship Order to take on formal responsibility of your missing person’s affairs. However, we know that some families have had payment breaks, pauses on interest, pauses on direct debits and other positive outcomes after writing to the companies they are involved with to explain that the person is missing and why this makes things difficult. This may only be a short-term help though.

We know writing letters and telling strangers about what is happening can be really difficult. Take the time you need to do it and consider asking a friend for help as, although the letters or emails are best being sent from you, someone else can help with drafting and putting together a list of who they need to go to.
It may also be worth speaking to your bank if you are struggling. They should have special processes and support in place for people who are vulnerable. Although you may not consider yourself to be vulnerable at all, having a loved one go missing, especially if you shared finances, may mean the bank can consider you under their policy and can therefore give you more support.

In debt

It’s understandable to feel stressed around finances, and we know it is a significant reason some people go missing, so you may have discovered that your financial situation is not what you thought. Do not delay in getting advice and help with it. Creditors are all obliged to have support teams to talk through options for anyone who is struggling. If you feel able, contact the company and explain the situation. If the debt is in the missing person’s name, you may have to consider applying for Guardianship to manage their affairs while they are missing. However, it is often worth a conversation with the companies first, many will try to help where they can. If you need more advice around your finances because you are struggling or worried about them, you can talk to the Money Advice Trust who specialise in debt and financial advice.

Worrying about homelessness

This is a common and understandable concern, especially if mortgages or tenancies are coming up for renewal. If you’re able to talk to your landlord or mortgage company and explain the situation, they may be able to give you an extension. It’s important to get good advice regarding anything to do with your housing, so take a look at Shelter’s website for information including how to contact them in your area.

Guardianship

Follow the link below for advice and support for claiming guardianship of your missing loved ones affairs.

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