Presumption of Death when there is no Proof of Death

Samantha Downs

Lord Lucan has been missing since 1974 and it is unknown whether he is dead or alive, despite many sightings and conspiracy theories. On the 3rd February 2016, the law permitted his son to obtain a ‘death’ certificate.

Until 1 October 2014 when the Presumption of Death Act 2013 (“the Act”) came into force if a person simply disappeared, it was very difficult if not almost impossible to obtain a death certificate. Obtaining a death certificate confirms that the person named on the certificate is, quite frankly, dead. Until a death certificate is obtained, the person is assumed to be alive. Quite rightly, no Court wants to agree to the production of a death certificate when the person in question may still be alive.

So what problems are posed for the families of people who disappear? The main practical problems are dealing with the missing person’s property and assets and where the spouse or partner wishes to end the marriage or civil partnership with the missing person.

Under the new Act, the High Court may make a declaration of presumed death if it is satisfied that the missing person is dead or has been known as not being alive for at least the last seven years.

This declaration of presumed death makes it much easier for the family of the missing person to deal with the missing person’s financial affairs and have closure on the matter. And in Lord Lucan’s case allows the hereditary peer title to pass on to his son.

Contact Samantha Downs on 0116 2628596 or Samantha.downs@dodds-solicitors.co.uk for more information.