When a loved one is missing for an extended period of time, not only can it be emotionally traumatic, but there may also be additional difficulties such as dealing with their finances whilst they are away.
Only a small fraction of missing people never return, but if a relative has been missing for some time, or there are circumstances that suggest the missing person is likely to have died, some families look to resolve their relative’s affairs and administer their estate.
Here you will find guidance on how to deal with these legal issues.
Whilst this information has been provided in good faith, it should not be taken as legal advice. For information tailored to your individual circumstances, please contact your police force, solicitor or an advisory organisation as appropriate to your query. Call us on 116 000 and we can help put you in touch with organisations who can help.
Currently, there is no legal system in place which enables families to become formal guardians of their missing person’s affairs. However, new legislation was passed in April 2017 which means that families will be able to do so in the future. The government have suggested that the new law will be enacted in July 2019 at which point families will be able to start making applications.
Until this new system is working, we know that families may wish to manage a missing relative’s affairs so that they are kept in order should they return. We have compiled guidance explaining and detailing ways you might go about managing your missing loved ones affairs during this time.
In some situations your local MP could be a source of help and advice.
Download our Guidance Sheet on 'How your MP could help'.
Below are guidance sheets on the presumption of death systems in place in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England and Wales (as the law in this area differs across the United Kingdom, there is separate guidance depending on where a family lives). There is additionally a sheet on the so-called ‘seven year rule’ when dealing with a missing person’s affairs, as whilst this time period does have significance, there are cases when a person’s affairs can be resolved much sooner, or later, than seven years.
Download 'Presumption of Death in Scotland'.