Claudia’s Law – Guardians of the affairs of missing persons
A law to help families of missing persons
Legislation came into effect at the end of July 2019 to help the relatives of people who disappear. The statute is the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017.
People who disappear leave more than an emotional gap in their families lives. Their families’ lives are put on hold legally and financially and this often creates enormous difficulty and hardship. The new law is sometimes referred to as ‘Claudia’s Law’ after a young chef, Claudia Lawrence who disappeared in 2009. Her father has fought for the introduction of legislation to assist the relatives of missing persons.
The law allows close relatives of missing persons to apply for legal authority to deal with property and some other assets of the missing person.
Their powers are similar to those of an attorney appointed in a Lasting Power of Attorney or a person appointed by the court in a Deputyship order. The guardian must manage the assets for the benefit of the missing person. Guardianship is not a way to transfer the assets into the ownership of anyone else.
Declaration of Presumed Death
Before Claudia’s Law was made the only way families could manage the affairs of missing persons was to apply for a Declaration of Presumed Death. A declaration is not easy to obtain and many families are understandably reluctant to have their relative declared dead. Families have to wait 7 years in most cases before they can obtain a Declaration of Presumed Death. Throughout that time they are in limbo, unable to deal with the missing person’s assets.
Under Claudia’s Law, close relatives can apply after 90 days for guardianship. There is a code of practice that gives guidance on applying to be appointed as a guardian and using the guardianship powers correctly. Guardians must abide by the code of practice.
The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 came into effect on 31st July 2019. Applications under the Presumption of Death Act 2013 and the Guardianship Act are made to the High Court.
If you need help to find a missing person the leading UK charity offering support to family and friends is Missing People
This article was first posted on 04.07.2019 and updated 06/08/22