In July this year, The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 was introduced whereby grieving families of missing relatives will have the legal authority to deal with their finances and assets.
The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 gained royal assent 2 years ago but has been gathering dust in parliament, waiting for approval. The Act would present families of missing people with access to their finances and affairs without being forced into testifying the presumed death of their loved one.
According to Missing People, a charity that assists missing people and their families, grief-stricken relatives are more often than not having to deal with a lot of additional paperwork in an already unbearable situation and could even be faced with financial hardship if they are unable to take control of the missing person’s finances.
When someone goes missing, the main practical issue that needs to be dealt with by families is how the assets of the missing person are to be allocated. This missing person may have many accounts, debts, mortgage(s) and utilities to pay for. Regardless of whether the estate is a considerable size or not, currently, a family member does not have the legal authority to deal with the assets belonging to the missing person.
At the moment, if a family member wanted to get access to the missing persons’ finances they would have to obtain a Declaration of Presumed Death from the Court and present evidence that the person has been missing for seven years – or they have passed away in a natural disaster.
The agonizing drawback of this is that the family would have to wait seven years before they could do anything which could result in destitution for those loved ones left behind.
. The new Act will mean that families will be able to manage the finances and assets of the missing relative by applying for a new Guardianship Order, once the person has been missing for at least 90 days.
The Guardianship Order itself will last up to 4 years and can be reapplied for when it expires and family members will be relieved to learn that the Order will be recognised by banks and other financial organisations.
This Order will go some way in easing the grief and comforting families knowing they can deal with the practical affairs of managing the missing persons’ finances and assets whilst they are missing but still a chance that they may be found alive – and allows the missing person’s dependants to be financially looked after and cared for by the extended family.
A Declaration of Presumed Death allows families to finalise the assets of those missing persons who are unlikely to return.
24 December 2019
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