Getting out of limbo… The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 – “Claudia’s Law”
“Claudia’s Law” came into force on 31 July 2019, named after Claudia Lawrence, who sadly went missing in 2009. The law allows a Guardian to be appointed after 90 days of a person going missing, so that their property and financial affairs can be managed. The Court of Protection will be appointing a panel of Guardians, who are court-approved professionals that can manage the property and financial affairs of someone who is missing, if there is no-one else that is appropriate.
Why is Guardianship needed?
Under common law when someone disappears, they are assumed to be alive unless proved otherwise. This means that their property and affairs are left owner-less and as they are presumed alive no decisions can be made by their loved ones or any professional body. The Act also covers situations where someone may be held hostage, kidnapped or imprisoned abroad. The Act enables people to manage the missing person’s assets which prevents financial problems and protects dependents of the missing person.
How does it work?
A Guardianship Order is made by the High Court, which gives the power to manage the property and financial affairs of the missing person in their best interest. The person applying to become a Guardian, must be able to show the Court that the person has been missing for 90 days. You must be over the age of 18 and have a sufficient interest in the person, trust corporations and panel Guardians may also be appointed. A Guardianship Order will be time limited to a maximum of 4 years; further Guardianship Orders may be made re-appointing the same person after this time period. The Court will continue to make Guardianship Orders until the Presumption of Death Act process may be appropriate. The Guardian will be supervised by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) to ensure that their legal duties are being carried out.
Guardianship Orders – key facts:
- You are the agent of the missing person for their property and financial affairs.
- You must act in the missing person’s best interest and with a duty of care.
- You will have powers set out in the Order, these may include selling, letting or mortgaging the missing person’s property, executing deeds and documents, making investments, recovering money owed, discharging debts, resigning trusteeships and making gifts. The Order may also set out restrictions.
What we can do for you…
Apply to the Court on your behalf for you to become a Guardian.
Apply to the Court to become a Guardian for your loved one.
Provide ad hoc advice to you if you would like to become a Guardian or are currently appointed a Guardian.
If you are concerned about someone who may be missing, please report it to your local Police station in person or by phone, in an emergency contact 999. You can also contact Missing People on their free 24 hour helpline 116 000 for advice.