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Guardianship law due by end of August

New powers for families of missing persons to manage legal and financial affairs

28 April 2014

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New legislation that will give more powers to the families of missing people will be introduced in the next four months, the government has announced.

The consultation paper on the Guardianship of Property and Affairs of Missing Persons will create a 'temporary status' between people who are missing and those presumed dead.

The proposals will allow a guardian to be appointed who can manage the missing person's property and affairs and deal with the legal and financial issues that arise in the initial months when someone vanishes.

"The government is committed to helping people who are put into the awful position of losing a loved one who has gone missing," said the minister for justice, Lord Faulks, in a written ministerial statement on 8 April.

"I am today confirming that my department is continuing to work with the charity Missing People and its pro bono lawyers Clifford Chance to prepare the consultation paper and intends to publish it as soon as possible and in any event by the end of August," he continued.

The new guardianship law will plug the gap identified in the Presumption of Death Act 2013, which received royal assent in May 2013, but is not yet in force.

The Act put in place the legal framework to enable families of missing persons to obtain a certificate of presumed death for someone who has not been known to be alive for a period of at least seven years.

However, the Act was criticised for the absence of any provision that enabled relatives to manage the affairs of people missing within that seven-year period.

"The absence of 'guardianship' provisions means that families currently face a huge ordeal in managing their missing loved one's affairs," said Jo Youle, chief executive of Missing People.

"Ongoing direct debits can drain a missing person's bank account, some families are forced to pay both halves of a joint mortgage and some families risk losing their homes," she continued.

The Presumption of Death Act 2013 is due to come in to force in October.

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