1. 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, eg they went missing during a natural disaster

A missing person isn’t automatically presumed dead.

You must make a claim for a declaration of presumed death if you want to do certain things, eg 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’), eg 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 £480 to get a declaration of presumed death. Read the fees leaflet to find out when you might not have to pay.

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.