Bishop & Sewell

Presumption of Death Act 2013 – How does it work and what actions can you take if a missing person is legally presumed dead?

According to Missing People (a UK Charity dedicated to reconnecting missing people and their loved ones), someone is reported missing every 90 seconds in the UK. Fortunately, only a fraction of people who go missing remain so for many years.

In the cases where a person is missing for a long time and there is not sufficient evidence proving that the person has died, the Presumption of Death Act 2013 (“the Act”) serves as a tool to give certain people (explained below) the right to deal with the missing person’s estate and affairs.

In simple terms, the Act allows certain people to make an application to court for an order that effectively has the same effect as a death certificate. This then allows for the missing person’s estate to be dealt with and administered.

When can an application be made to the court?

The act specifies that an application can only be made to the Court if the person has been missing for a period of at least 7 years. In some circumstances, it can also be used if the person has been missing for less than that period, if there is evidence to suggest the person has died. This may be in scenarios where the person may have been at a location where a natural disaster had hit, or there is evidence that suggests they might have taken their own life.

Who can make an application?

An application can be brought by the missing person’s spouse, civil partner, parent, child or sibling. Alternatively, an application can also be made by someone who has an interest in the missing person’s estate, such as the executor of a will, or a beneficiary under the rules of intestacy.

What evidence is needed?

This will vary case by case but, in most circumstances, it would be necessary to produce:

  1. Witness statements from the relevant person(s) explaining the background and circumstances surrounding the person’s disappearance; and
  2. Evidence of the steps taken to try and locate the missing person, including private investigations/tracing agents, police searches, notices in the media, contacting the banks regarding any activity on the person’s account(s), etc.

What should I do about the missing person’s insurance, mortgage and other finances in the meantime?

It is best to contact mortgage companies/insurance companies letting them know about the missing person and the surrounding circumstances. Mortgage companies may commence repossession proceedings, so it is best that they are well informed.

If you are in this situation, our professional and sympathetic team at Bishop & Sewell can help you navigate through the process and the technical and legal challenges to obtain a declaration as quickly as possible.

If you have questions or require assistance on any of the legal issues mentioned in this article, please contact Nadine Esaid, Solicitor, Litigation and Dispute Resolution team. 

Alternatively, you can telephone: 020 7091 2706. 

The above is accurate as at 16 February 2024. The information above may be subject to change.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Category: Blog, News | Date: 16th Feb 2024

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