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Dealing with the estate of someone presumed dead

One of the most famous people to go missing in the UK is Lord Lucan. Despite numerous claims of his sighting since 1974, his whereabouts, nor indeed whether he is still alive remains a mystery.

This doesn’t mean, however, that his family hasn’t been able to deal with his property. The Presumption of Death Act 2013 came into force on 1st October 2014, since when it has been easier to obtain a presumption of death certificate and thereafter a declaration of presumed death from the High Court. This declaration is needed in order to deal with the missing person’s property, but that person has to have been missing for seven years or more.

If, however, someone goes missing during a natural disaster, an order can be passed from the country that the missing person is from so that the family does not have to wait for seven years. For example, if the relatives of those who were involved in the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia could prove that their relative was in Sumatra and was later not found, it would not have been necessary for them to have waited for the full seven years.

A person entitled to make a claim for a declaration of presumed death can be the missing person’s spouse or civil partner, parent, child or sibling. If none of these apply, the person claiming would have to prove to the court that they have enough of a connection to the missing person.

Author: Rachel Towle

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