Declarations of presumed death
Produced in partnership with David Salter of Deputy High Court judge and Recorder

The following Family practice note produced in partnership with David Salter of Deputy High Court judge and Recorder provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Declarations of presumed death
  • Grounds for application
  • Who may apply?
  • Jurisdiction
  • Effect of declaration
  • Variation orders
  • Procedure
  • Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017

Declarations of presumed death

The Presumption of Death Act 2013 (PDA 2013) came into force on 1 October 2014 and extends to England and Wales only. Previously, there had been a common law rebuttable evidential presumption that a person was deemed to be dead after a seven-year absence alongside a number of statutory provisions (eg section 19 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973) and section 37 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (CPA 2004)) which contained specific procedures, dealing with different aspects of a missing person’s property and affairs, under which a missing person might be presumed dead. PDA 2013 introduced a procedure enabling a declaration to be obtained from the High Court (Family Division or Chancery Division) that a missing person is deemed to have died effective for all purposes.

The court must make the declaration sought if satisfied that a missing person has died, or has not been known to be alive for a period of at least seven years. The declaration must include a finding as to the date and time of the missing person’s death.

Where the court is satisfied that the missing person has died, but is uncertain which moment during the period the missing person died, the finding must be that the missing person is presumed to have died at the end of that period. The period for the

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