New rules could help the families of missing persons to manage their finances

11th March 2015

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The Government is set to rule on how the financial affairs of missing persons are managed.

An estimated 327,000 missing person reports are filed with the police every year in the UK.  Around one third of missing people are aged 18 and over.

The Government will soon be publishing feedback to a proposed new law that would allow those close to a missing person to manage their finances while he or she is missing.

Currently when  someone goes missing, any legal or financial arrangements in relation to that person’s affairs will remain in place for up to seven years after their disappearance.

At this point, you  can apply to the High Court for a Declaration of Presumed Death,  However, before then,   financial arrangements contracted directly with the missing person, such as insurance or mortgage payments, may continue to have to be paid regardless of the change in circumstances.

In some cases, this can cause hardship for those left behind as they cannot control outgoing payments or access money that they were dependent upon.

The suggested change in legislation would mean an appropriate person could apply to the court to be appointed a guardian just 90 days after a person goes missing.

This would give them the authority to act on behalf of the missing person  in terms of their property and other financial affairs for up to four years, with the ability to extend the appointment for longer.

Fiona Debney, partner  at national law firm Clarke Willmott, said: “This would be a significant change in legislation which we would welcome.  As the law currently stands, not being able to administer finances and personal affairs for such a long period of time  can have a devastating impact for both sides.

“The family of a missing person is often left struggling because it cannot access money needed for dependents who were previously reliant on the missing person for financial or practical support.

“Organisations who have a contract directly with the missing person, may refuse to discuss, cancel, move or vary payments for anything from  a mortgage to an insurance policy.  In turn, as a result, if a missing person does return, their financial affairs may be in total chaos and there ensues a long and complex process to try and reinstate them.”

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