Missing persons and presumption of death

The following Wills & Probate practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Missing persons and presumption of death
  • Tracing the missing person
  • Guardianship provisions
  • Presumption of death
  • The declaration
  • Additional powers
  • Variation
  • Principles

Missing persons and presumption of death

The disappearance of a person does not automatically enable others to take control of that person's affairs or their property ownership. That can create immense difficulties if, for instance, a property is owned solely by the missing person or with others, whether as joint tenants or tenants in common. With an indication of death but an inability to obtain a death certificate the missing person will, for all legal purposes, be deemed to be alive. Those left behind have the choice of trying to trace the missing person or attempting to prove that they are, or likely to be, dead.

Tracing the missing person

Tracing a missing person is the first step. All necessary enquiries will have to be made to endeavour to prove that the missing person is likely to be dead rather than evading being found. There are a number of means and organizations that can be used. These include:

  1. the charity 'Missing People'—a specialist charity dedicated to bringing missing children and adults back to their families

  2. The National Crime Agency UK Missing Persons Unit—this is both a national and international contact point for all missing persons and unidentified body cases supplying expertise on the subject of missing persons

  3. the Salvation Army—their Family Tracing Service helps people trace living relatives with whom contact has been lost, although they do

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