How Long Before You Can Claim a Declaration of Presumed Death

If you are the executor of someone’s estate and they have gone missing, they have to be legally declared dead before you can carry out your duties. In order to shed light on this issue, Prestige Tax and Trust Services asks: how long does a person have to be missing before they are declared dead?

Legal obligations

If someone has gone missing in England or Wales, you must get a declaration of presumed death from the High Court to administer their estate. We should note that just because someone has gone missing, that does not automatically mean that the High Court will declare them legally dead.

For a successful application, the person in question must have been missing for seven years or more. The High Court may issue a declaration of presumed death before seven years have passed in the event of a natural disaster such as a flood.

Who can claim?

Under UK law only certain people can lodge a claim for a declaration of presumed death. If you are the missing person’s parent, child, sibling or spouse/partner, you fall into this category. If you are not one of these people, when you make a claim to the High Court you must prove that you have a strong enough connection to the missing person e.g. you are a distant relative and you can prove it with your birth certificate.

In other words if you are the executor of someone’s estate but do not fit this criteria, you may have to enlist the aid of someone else to get a declaration of presumed death. For a claim to be successful, as well as being a close relation to the missing person, one or more of the following must apply:

  • The person resided in England or Wales for the entire year before the last date they were known to be alive.
  • On the last date they were known to be alive, the person treated either England or Wales as their permanent home nation (domicile).
  • You are the person’s spouse or civil partner and you have lived in England or Wales for the entire year before you submit your claim.
  • You are the person’s spouse or civil partner and you treat England or Wales as your permanent domicile on the date you make your claim.

Prestige Tax and Trust Services

If you meet this criteria, you can make a claim to get a declaration of presumed death. After this, you must advertise your claim in a newspaper to ensure the missing person cannot be found, and attend a hearing to finalise the process.

Once you have received the declaration, you can fulfil your duties as the executor of your estate. Executorship can involve a range of complex responsibilities, so you may want to enlist professional aid to perform your role effectively. Prestige Tax and Trust Services provides the expert advice required for executorship purposes.

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