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Presumption of death law one step closer

The Presumption of Death Bill is due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons on 2 November in a move that brings closer the introduction of new laws to help relatives arrange the financial affairs of missing people.

22 October 2012

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Currently, it is difficult to register the death of a missing person in the absence of a body. Without the death certificate, practical issues such as selling property, dissolving a marriage, claiming life insurance and pensions are protracted affairs.

There is a common law presumption that if a person has been missing for seven years they are presumed dead, but this is not incorporated into statute.

Charities, families and lawyers have been campaigning for the government to introduce a ‘certificate of presumed death’ in England and Wales and the issue has now been taken up by John Glen MP, who has sponsored the Presumption of Death Bill.

Kirsten Bennett, a solicitor at Lund Bennett Law, is working with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) to explore the impact of new legislation. “We’ve been campaigning for many years for the introduction of this legislation which would help people when a family member goes missing and enable them to deal with the day-to-day finances of their missing relative,” said Bennett.

“The second reading of the Presumption of Death Bill presents the government with an opportunity to create a timetable to progress the commitment to reform made in its response to the Justice Committee report on this topic,” she added.

“Alongside the government and opposition parties, we’re looking to get this enacted ready for the start of the next parliament,” Bennett continued.

The APPG is holding a roundtable session tomorrow (23 October 2012) at the House of Commons that will see a variety of experts explore the impact of the new legislation.

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Legal services Wills, Trusts & Probate