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Dealing with the affairs of a missing relative

Sep 11, 2017

It’s a sad state of affairs when the agony of having a relative go missing is compounded by legal hurdles.

But that is often the reality. When a person disappears, the law does not make it easy for family members to keep matters relating to that person’s legal affairs, finances or property ticking over. And that can be problematic, particularly where the person has been missing for a substantial amount of time.

Unlike the situation in which a relative has died and a person is appointed to handle their affairs, parents cannot assume authority to take care of the affairs of their missing adult daughter, for example. In many cases it is not until seven years after a person has gone missing (and there has been a legal declaration that they are presumed dead) that any significant steps are taken towards managing their finances or property.

That position is and has always been unsatisfactory. But it’s set to change. A new law, known as ‘Claudia’s law’ after Claudia Lawrence who went missing in York in 2009, is going to be introduced. The specific legislation is called the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017, and it’s expected to come into force next year. It will, in specific circumstances, allow a guardian – possibly a family member - to be appointed to make certain decisions, and take certain actions, on behalf of a person who has been missing for more than 90 days.  

There are various things that a guardian may be able to do, including selling the missing person’s property, make investments, recover money owed to the person, or bring legal proceedings on their behalf. Overall, it’s about acting in the best interests of the missing person.

As lawyers, we have helped clients through the many challenges that present themselves when a loved one disappears. And we are confident that the new law will go some way towards making the situation a little less difficult for those living in hope of a family member’s safe return.

If any of these issues are relevant to you and your family, contact one of our specialist private client lawyers on 01264 353411, via email:  probate@bsandi.co.uk or via our no obligation online enquiry form.  We’ll make sure you take the right steps.


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