Last week, the government publicly lent its support towards introducing a Private Members Bill regarding the presumption of death law, which will see a presumption of death certificate come into play when individuals have been declared missing, presumed dead.
This presumption of death certificate will contain the same power as a traditional death certificate and will help loved ones left behind to move on, by being able to settle the financial affairs of the missing person much faster and easier than they have been able to in the past.
Currently, the death certificate allows the executor of a will to contact all financial organisations relevant to the deceased. These organisations are then able to provide information regarding how much money they held for the deceased at the time of death and the amount of income received during that that particular tax year. On receipt of the death certificate, they can also freeze the deceased’s bank accounts.
In future, presentation of a presumption of death certificate will also allow the relevant representative of the deceased’s estate to access the same information and carry out the same activities, without having to wait years at a time.
The Ministry of Justice is to back legislation making presumption of death certificates available much earlier, to allow families to deal with any pressing legal and financial issues during the time when their loved one is missing.
Currently, in England and Wales, someone must be missing for seven years before it is formally presumed that they are dead. It is thought that the bill, which is set to be presented in the autumn, will reduce the time needed to wait until death can be presumed, by around three years.
There are concerns however, that these changes could of course result in an increase in the number of fraudulent cases of missing persons, in an attempt to claim insurance.
For many families however, these reforms could mean that the uncertainty felt by loved ones for several years whilst the search effort wanes; and finances and legal issues remain outstanding, is reduced.