A New Law to Help Families of Missing Persons

Under current legislation, in order for someone else to manage the assets of a person that has gone missing, they must have been missing for seven years and be declared dead. This was set out in the Presumption of Death Act 2013.

However, this seven year period of limbo can make life very difficult for families that are left behind. These families are also dealing with the trauma of a missing loved one. Statistics show that the majority of people that go missing each year are aged between 41- 70, so are likely to have families, jobs, mortgages, debts and outgoings like utility bills to manage. As it stands, until a presumption of death certificate is granted, nobody can manage any element of a missing person’s finances, even down to stopping a standing order, leaving many families vulnerable.

It is for this reason that theGuardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 was passed in April 2017. It is due to be come into force in July 2019. The Act enables a person, known as a Guardian, to apply to the Court for authority to manage the property and financial affairs of a missing person. A person only has to be missing for 90 days for this authority to be granted. It is hoped that this authority will help families in desperate circumstances.

It is very likely that the legal structure for Guardianships will be similar to Deputyship under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and that Guardians will have similar powers and duties as Deputies. They will be supervised and required to report to the Office of the Public Guardian (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/office-of-the-public-guardian) each year, like Deputies.

The government is currently consulting on exactly how the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 will come into force, and how families and friends can apply to be appointed as Guardians. The consultation is open until 12 February 2019.