Presumption of Death Act 2013

Presumption of Death Act 2013

Until recently, the families of missing persons have been left in a legal limbo, as a result of the uncertainty of whether or not the person is still alive.   Obviously, most families would hope that that is the case, but eventually a point is reached whereby the only logical conclusion is that the person is, in fact, deceased.   In these circumstances, families have been unable to move on with their lives and deal with the consequences of such an unusual “bereavement”.

The Presumption of Death Act 2013 now provides a solution by allowing families to apply to the High Court for a Certificate of Presumption of Death. This performs the same function as an ordinary death certificate, particularly in areas such as:

  1. Allowing the missing person’s estate to be distributed in accordance with their will or the laws of intestacy
  2. Allowing the dissolution their marriage or Civil Partnership so that their spouse can move on with their life
  3. Finalising the person’s entitlement to any State benefits and settling any overpayments etc from the estate.

The declaration will be made if the Court is satisfied that the person has died or has not been known to be alive for a period of at least seven years.  

There is a period after the Order has been made during which an appeal can be lodged, but if no such appeal is lodged, the “deceased’s” details will be entered in a new Register of Presumed Deaths

This procedure replaces a whole range of individual procedures that a family otherwise would have had to make in respect of each aspect of the person’s life, none of which had any wider application to the person’s affairs.

For instance, a spouse seeking dissolution of the marriage or Civil Partnership had a specific procedure to follow in order to obtain a Court Order to that effect.   Not only was the spouse thereby prevented from moving on with their life, they had the added upset of still being classed as married to someone who they believed to be deceased.