Below is a guidance document on how you could approach working with the family if contacted for advice or help in dealing with a missing person's financial or legal affairs. This outlines what families can experience when a relative is missing, what issues they might seek support on, and the approach professionals should take with them; along with where you can find more information for your area of work.
Guardianship: Protecting and managing a missing person's affairs
In the past, there was no specific legislation which enabled families of missing people to obtain the legal right to manage a relative’s affairs on the basis that they are missing. However, in April 2017 a bill introducing these powers succesfully passed through parliament and received Royal Assent. The new law is expected to be fully enacted in 2018, at which point families and friends of a missing person will be able to apply for the right to look after their affairs. Find out more about our campaign for guardianship and what it means.
Until this new law is enacted, families may still be left with a number of questions as to what they are, and are not, able to do when seeking to manage their loved one's financial or legal affairs; and, as such, they may approach professionals for advice and help on matters including: banking, insurance, benefits, and their missing relative's home.
Missing People has a policy briefing which outlines this area which you can find here. In addition, we have produced a number of resources for families looking to manage a missing person's affairs which you may find of assistance, covering issues including: banking, mortgages, benefits and insurance, which are available here. Where possible, we have developed these in conjunction with industry experts including the British Bankers' Association and the Association of British Insurers.
Presumption of Death: Resolving a missing person's affairs
Scotland, Northern Ireland and England and Wales each have separate presumption of death systems, however each are broadly similar. You can find details of these in our family guidance sheets here. This is a recent development however, with the system in England and Wales having been reformed by the Presumption of Death Act 2013. In force from 1 October 2014, this has created a new court procedure which can lead to the issue of a Certificate of Presumed Death, and finally brings England and Wales in line with the systems already in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland. For more information on the Act, see our briefing on it here, and the family guidance sheet on it here, which includes information on making an application.