Bishop & Sewell

When a family member is missing, but their estate is frozen

Fortunately, few people will have to go through the terrible experience of having a family member go missing with little prospect of them being found alive.

Under UK law, a missing person is not automatically presumed dead until 7 years have passed. So, in addition to the worry and grief there is also the terrible consequence that without a death certificate, his/her estate is effectively ‘frozen’.

This may include financial assets, such as money in bank accounts and investments. It is unlikely that any life insurance policy will pay out until a death certificate has been granted and this leaves a surviving partner potentially in a precarious financial position, especially if there are children to look after and a mortgage to pay.

What can be done?

There are are now two options open to the family of a missing person:

  • The Presumption of Death Act 2013 allows in England and Wales for an application through the courts for a missing person to be declared dead. This would also bring to an end the missing person’s marriage or civil partnership allowing the surviving partner to be able to move on with their life.
  • The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 also known as ‘Claudia’s Law’ allows for a Guardian to be appointed to the court so that he/she can deal with the missing person’s affairs.

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.

We understand that at such a difficult time you may need financial assistance with our legal costs. That’s why we have existing relationships with third-party funders who may be able to assist you.

Next steps

For initial advice or to arrange a meeting with one of our team, you can fill in the form on this page and we’ll get back to you shortly. Alternatively, you can email or contact 020 7631 4141 and ask to speak to the Litigation team.

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