Up until July 2019 and the implementation of ‘Claudia’s Law’, families of missing persons had no legal authority to deal with the property and financial affairs of a missing family member. Previously, a missing person had to be declared dead under the ‘Presumption of Death Act 2013;’ this could only be applied after a person had been missing for 7 years.
Claudia’s Law is named after the daughter of a former Solicitor who campaigned for the law after his daughter’s disappearance in 2009. This law now enables families to apply to the High Court for guardianship after a person has been missing for 90 days. Guardians must be at least 18 years old and deemed suitable by the High Court. However, success of guardianship is very similar to being given ‘Lasting Power of Attorney’ for an elderly relative or parent that’s no longer capable of managing their financial affairs.
Under Claudia’s Law, a missing person will include someone who is missing either in the UK or abroad. They can be victims of kidnap or hostage or even be detained in a prison.
For Claudia’s Law to be applicable the following criteria, for the missing person, must be met:
- The persons whereabouts are not known at all – or with sufficient precision to enable the person to be contacted for the purposes of decisions relating to their property and financial affairs.
- If the person is unable to make and / or communicate their decisions and the reason for that is something beyond the person’s control. This does not include a person who cannot make a
decision through a lack of capacity – this is what a Lasting Power of Attorney is for.
The High Court might impose specific duties on guardians to include certain conditions and restrictions and the duties of the guardian will be supervised by the ‘Office of the Public Guardian’ (OPG) to ensure reasonable care is taken with detailed finances.
Whilst you will not legally own the missing persons property and belongings, you will have control over them and have the power to sell in order to discharge the missing persons debts and other financial obligations.
For families in such an unfortunate situation, Claudia’s Law goes a long way to reducing stress and the feeling of helplessness by not being able to deal with a missing loved one’s financial affairs.
Applications can be made online to the Chancery or Family Divisions of the High Court using a ‘Part 8 Claim Form.’