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Managing affairs for a missing person

View profile for Jessica  Latimer
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The Guardianship Act was bought into power in 2019 to help families deal with the affairs of a missing loved one.

Prior to this act being bought in, the only way to deal with a missing person’s affairs was to make a declaration to the High Court that the missing person was presumed to have died. This declaration could only be made if the missing person had not known to be alive for 7 years. Meaning the missing persons property is left essentially ownerless resulting in;

  • Home being repossessed
  • Accounts overdrawn
  • Other liabilities

Adding emotional pressure to families during a difficult time.

The Guardianship Act aimed to ‘fill a gap’ in the existing law and provide a legal remedy. Known as ‘Claudia’s Law’ it allows families the ability to oversee the financial and property affairs of their missing loved one.

Family members wishing to act can make an application for guardianship to the High Court. It must be satisfied that they have a sufficient interest in the property and affairs of the missing person. Once appointed, the guardians will be supervised by The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). Successful applicants will be able to remain a guardian for up to 4 years with an option to renew.

During their time as Guardian, they will be able to step in and safe guard their loved ones assets in their absence. Ensuring, their property and financial affairs are looked after for their benefit/benefit of family members.

The use of Guardianship can also be used for missing beneficiaries. A guardian will be able to act on behalf of the missing person in relation to their beneficial interest.

A report by the OPG in 2019-2020 showed of only 2 supervising guardians. This could be due to a lack of knowledge in this new area, meaning many families are continuing to struggle in silence.