The government has proposed new powers that will allow families of missing people to take control of their absent relative’s financial and legal affairs. The move is intended to help with the practical side of losing a loved one such as handling things like utility bills and mortgage payments. Justice minister Lord Faulks said “The emotional and personal problems caused by absences of several months or even years are all too obvious, but they can be compounded by the practical consequences of the disappearance.”“We are considering the creation of a status of guardian of the property and affairs of a missing person to help enable these problems to be solved.”
Under the new proposals, relatives could become “guardian” of the property and affairs of someone who has been missing for more than 90 days. A court would appoint a suitable guardian to handle a missing person’s legal and financial affairs for up to four years, with the possibility of an extension.The powers come in addition to the new Presumption of Death Act, which from the 1st October, will allow relatives to apply for a “certificate of presumed death” if a relative is not found after 7 years.The charity Missing People said it was “delighted” the government has looked into new proposals. Under the current law in England and Wales, a missing person does not affect the ownership or control of their property and affairs. Director of policy and advocacy Susannah Drury said: “Missing People regularly hears from distressed families who are unable to step in and look after their missing relative’s property and finances while they are missing. In the worst cases, finances are destroyed beyond repair and homes can be lost.“This is why Missing People has been campaigning for guardianship to enable families to protect a missing loved one’s life in their absence.”The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.Setfords Solicitors are a national full service law firm, with family law solicitors in Farnham and across the country.