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The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017
If a family member has gone missing, you can apply to the High Court for guardianship to take control and protect your loved one’s financial affairs. JMW’s Court of Protection solicitors can help you make a successful application to the court for a Guardianship Order.
We understand how being able to manage the financial affairs of a missing loved one until they return home can reduce the stress and uncertainty for many families. We also know that dealing with the court can be overwhelming and confusing, particularly during such a difficult time. Our team of experts can work with you to submit your application to court, while providing you with any other legal advice or support, allowing you to focus on more important issues.
How JMW Can Help
The rights and powers of a guardian of a missing person allow them to deal with the following:
- The sale, let or mortgage of a property
- Making investments
- Executing deeds
- Recovering money owed to the missing person
- Discharging debts
- Bringing or conducting legal proceedings
- Providing maintenance for dependants
- Making gifts
The court may also set out specific duties for the guardian of a missing person.
At JMW, we have specialist, dedicated solicitors who can advise you on your various responsibilities as a guardian, and help you submit an application for a Guardianship Order. We are also fully versed in handling court matters relating to a person’s property and financial affairs and will be able to provide helpful guidance when you need it the most.
What is the Guardian (Missing Persons) Act 2017?
The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act came into effect on 31st July 2019, following Claudia’s Law, a campaign from 2009 about a missing woman. Prior to this, families had no legal authority to access bank accounts or make important decisions on behalf of their missing family member.
To be able to manage the assets of a missing person, a Declaration of Presumed Death had to be obtained from the court, meaning families had to prove that their loved one had been missing for more than seven years. Not only was this a traumatic experience as families were forced to presume that those missing were dead, but it proved expensive as payments, such as direct debits and mortgages, would continue to be paid.
Following the introduction of the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act, families have been given legal authority to manage and protect their loved one’s financial affairs by applying to the High Court for a Guardianship Order.
The well-received legislation allows a guardian to be appointed to make decisions based on the best interest of the missing person, if they have been missing for more than 90 days.
Who can be appointed as a guardian?
A guardian must be at least 18 years old and act in the best interest of the missing person. The court will assess the following:
- The relationship between the potential guardian and the missing person
- Their capacity to take on the role of guardian
- Whether there are any conflicts of interest
Guardians are closely monitored by the Office of Public Guardian (OPG) and may be given specific instruction on what they can and cannot do while acting on behalf of the missing person.
How long is a Guardianship Order valid for?
A Guardianship Order is valid for up to four years, but it is possible to get this extended.
What is the definition of a missing person?
A person is classed as missing if they are absent from their usual place of residence and their day-to-day activities, and either:
- Their whereabouts are not known to enable that person to be contacted for the purposes of decisions relating to their properties and affairs; or
- The person is unable to make decisions relating to their property and affairs or communicate such decisions for some reason outside of their control
This does not include reasons by way of illness, injury or lack of capacity - in these circumstances, you will need to apply for a Deputyship Order.
Do I need a Guardianship Order if I think my loved one has died?
If a family member has been missing for seven years or more, or you have clear evidence that they have died, you may wish to consider applying for a Declaration of Presumed Death, which will allow you to administer their estate.
Talk to Us
If you have concerns over a missing family member’s financial affairs, contact JMW’s expert guardianship solicitors today to discuss your options. Call us on 0345 872 6666, or fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.