In late March, the UK parliament passed the Presumption of Death Act after several years of campaigning, which is intended to help families take control of a missing loved one's affairs.
According to a statement from the Justice Ministry, the new law will make it much easier for relatives to have a missing person declared legally dead by simply submitting an application form. They will then receive a presumption of death certificate, which is effectively equivalent to a death certificate for the purposes of administration. This document will allow relatives to handle the missing person's legal matters and finances, giving them the right to cancel direct debit accounts for instance.
The new rules will be implemented in England and Wales to match legislation that already exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The changes were introduced by John Glen, MP for Salisbury, and subsequently backed by the government. They are part of plans previously outlined by the Justice Ministry in July 2012, which were aimed at simplifying laws concerning the affairs of missing people who are presumed dead.
According to Justice Minister, Helen Grant, the changes will help people facing the pain of having a missing loved one deal with legal matters more quickly. The simplified legal framework is intended to ensure that grieving families will be able to better handle a missing person's estate and finances.