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

    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

  3. Step 3 Tell government about the death

    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 you cannot use Tell Us Once, tell government yourself

    You'll also need to tell banks, utility companies, and landlords or housing associations 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. and Check if you need to apply to stay in the UK

    If your right to live in the UK depends on your relationship with someone who died you might need to apply for a new visa.

    Check the rules if:

    1. Contact UKVI to check the rules for other visas
  7. Step 5 Apply for probate and check if you need to pay Inheritance Tax

    You might need to apply for probate and pay Inheritance Tax before you can deal with the property, money and possessions (the ‘estate’) of the person who died.

    1. Check if you need to apply for probate
    1. Estimate the value of the estate to find out if you need to pay Inheritance Tax
    1. Find out how to report the value of the estate
    1. Pay Inheritance Tax if it’s due
    1. Apply for probate
  8. Step 6 Deal with the estate

    Pay any debts or taxes owed by the person who's died. You can then distribute the estate as set out in the will or the law.

    1. Deal with the estate
    1. Update property records