Get a declaration of presumed death

Overview

You can make a claim for a ‘declaration of presumed death’ from the High Court if someone you know in England and Wales has been missing for:

  • 7 years or more
  • less than 7 years and you think they’ve died, for example they went missing during a natural disaster

A missing person is not automatically presumed dead.

You must make a claim for a declaration of presumed death if you want to do certain things, for example deal with their estate.

Who can make a claim

You can make a claim if you’re the missing person’s:

  • spouse or civil partner
  • parent
  • child
  • sibling

If none of these apply, you’ll need to prove to the court that you have enough of a connection to the missing person (‘sufficient interest’), for example you’re a distant relative and you have a birth certificate to prove it.

What else must be true to make a claim

To make a claim one or more of the following must also apply:

  • you’re the missing person’s spouse or civil partner and you treat England or Wales as your permanent home (‘domicile’) on the date you make the claim
  • you’re the missing person’s spouse or civil partner and you’ve been living in England or Wales for the whole year before the date you make the claim
  • the missing person treated England or Wales as their permanent home (‘domicile’) on the date they were last known to be alive
  • the missing person was living in England or Wales for the whole year before the date they were last known to be alive

The rules are different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Fees

It costs £528 to get a declaration of presumed death. You may be able to get help paying court fees.

Make a claim for a declaration of presumed death

You can make a claim yourself or use a legal representative.

  1. Make your claim.

  2. Advertise your claim in a newspaper.

  3. Attend a hearing.

  1. Step 1 Register the death

    Ask the GP or hospital doctor for a medical certificate. You'll need this to register the death.

    1. Register the death within 5 days

    Check what to do if:

    To stop or change benefits payments you can tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about the death straight away.

  2. Step 2 Arrange the funeral

    When you register the death you’ll get a 'certificate for a burial' to give to the funeral director, or an application for cremation which you need to complete and give to the crematorium. You must do one of these before the funeral can take place.

    1. Arrange the funeral
    2. Find bereavement services from your local council
    3. Get help paying for a funeral
  3. Step 3 Tell government someone died

    The Tell Us Once service allows you to inform all the relevant government departments when someone dies.

    1. Use the Tell Us Once service to tell government
    2. If Tell Us Once is not available in your area tell government yourself

    You'll also need to tell banks, utility companies and landlords yourself.

  4. Step 4 Check if you can get bereavement benefits

  5. and Deal with your own benefits, pension and taxes

    Your tax, benefit claims and pension might change depending on your relationship with the person who died.

    1. Manage your tax, pensions and benefits if your spouse has died
    2. Check how benefits are affected if a child dies
  6. Step 5 Deal with their estate

    You might have to deal with the will, money and property of the person who's died if you're a close friend or relative, or the executor of the will.

    1. Check what to do about wills, probate and inheritance
    2. Update property records