Missing Person Families Need New Rights

by Philip Wild on April 5, 2013

The recent publicity about the still unresolved mystery of the whereabouts of Lord Lucan nearly 40 years since he disappeared, has highlighted that, according to a report by the Justice Select Committee, new legislation is needed to make it easier for families to resolve the affairs of missing people. The complex legal landscape means that families often have to pay to pursue multiple proceedings before everything is resolved. This can prove costly for families.

The MPs want the Ministry of Justice to introduce legislation based on the Scottish Presumption of Death Act 1977, according to Alex Norris a solicitor in the Private Client Dept. at Kidd Rapinet’s Maidenhead office “The new law should set out a single statutory process whereby a certificate of presumed death can be issued to resolve all the affairs of a missing person, in much the same way as a death certificate.” A new Presumption of Death Act in England and Wales, on the model of the Scottish Act, would allow an application for a presumption of death order after seven years.

The report also recommends that the Government introduces provision for ‘guardianship’ orders to protect the financial position of the missing person or his or her dependants. During an initial seven year period a guardianship provision would allow families to maintain the person’s estate by cancelling direct debits such as gym membership, pay off any debts, and provide maintenance for the missing person’s dependents, if necessary. Alex Norris comments: “The Ministry of Justice should also develop guidance for families on the law and processes in this area. Easily available guidance from the Government would help families to begin navigating the system.”

If you feel you may need advice, Kidd Rapinet can advise you on the latest law in this field. Call Alex Norris on 01628 621301for further information.