Families will now be able to apply, for the first time, for a Presumption of Death Certificate for a loved one who has gone missing and is presumed dead.
It can be used in the same way as a Death Certificate and will enable people to deal with the complex legal and financial issues left when someone disappears.
The declaration of presumed death will mean that any marriage or civil partnership will come to an end in the same way as if the missing person had died, and that property can be inherited under the missing person’s will.
Having the certificate will mean that grieving families will also be able to close bank accounts, stop direct debits, cancel passports and licences and apply for probate. In the past there have been concerns that missing people’s relatives have had to go through complex processes to deal with each of these issues.
Justice Minister Lord Faulks QC said:
Today marks a crucial step forward for families facing up to the terrible situation of losing someone without a trace. We have made sure that while they are dealing with the heartache of a loved one going missing, they no longer have to face such a daunting task to deal with the practical issues that are also created.
The changes have been made through the Presumption of Death Act 2013 and apply in England and Wales. Similar powers already exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Ministry of Justice is currently consulting on whether a system should also be created under which a person can be appointed to deal with the property and affairs of a missing person who is not presumed dead; and, if so, how and on what terms.