What Does Death In Absentia Mean?
An estate cannot be distributed between heirs if the person who owns it is still alive. That makes sense. But what happens when the owner of the estate is missing, and could be dead, but there is no proof of their death? Is there something that can be done, or will the estate remain in limbo forever, unable to be inherited or sold?
Death in absentia means that someone is declared death despite gaining any direct proof of the person’s death. That means that no remains have been found, and no one has come forward with any evidence to proof that the estate owner is actually dead (or alive).
In order to be declared dead in absentia, there must be overwhelming support for the theory that the person is actually dead. For example, they may have been travelling in a plane that crashed, and everyone on board died. Their body may not have been recovered, but the theory would be that they had died. In order to pass the estate on to any heirs, there must be a court order to declare death in absentia; this order directs a doctor to complete a death certificate.
In most countries, the individual must have been missing for seven years before anything can be done regarding their estate. If, however, the estate is a significant one, it may be that a court will request a longer time to enable every avenue of investigation to be completed. The problems arising when someone who has been declared dead actually returns are huge, and cause major issues for everyone involved, not least the person whose estate has been divvied out amongst his or her heirs!