LEGAL MATTERS FROM CURTIS PARKINSON
What happens to a person’s affairs when they disappear/go missing and are presumed dead? What if you don’t want to have the person presumed dead? The harsh reality in England and Wales is that there is no process of dealing with a missing person’s affairs, unless you are willing to have them presumed dead. Even if you are willing to have them presumed dead, it can take up to seven years to obtain a declaration of death to be able to administer the estate.
This means that in the intervening period you will not be able to legally deal with the finances – insurance, mortgage, banking the list goes on and the cost can be exorbitant. The inability to be able to deal with a simple mortgage could also put the family home at risk with the difficulty in dealing with life insurance companies who won’t pay out. Parliament is now set to consider changes that would retain the seven-year presumption of death but allow for
a person’s finances to be dealt with under special guardianship orders in the interim. This would cater for safeguarding the wealth of an estate and look after the family of the deceased person to avoid undue hardship and suffering. In Scotland there is already
a similar system in place and in Australia they have a system for dealing with the finances of missing persons without the presumption of death. The proposed changes are a long time in coming and are common sense. The rules and procedures will have to be drafted carefully to safeguard against fraud and abuse but should make things easier in what is already a difficult situation.
If you need help in dealing with a person’s finances, whether in life or death, call Kenneth Curtis on 0115 964 7740.