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"Terrible burden" to be lifted from families with missing relatives

THE long-awaited introduction of The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 will relieve “a terrible burden” on the families of missing people according to leading law firm Roythornes.

Due to be introduced on 30th July 2019, the Act is intended to relieve the legal burden on the families of those missing for longer than 90 days and assumed to be living. The new legislation is known as “Claudia’s Law” in memory of the York chef Claudia Lawrence who went missing nine years ago.

Elizabeth Young, head of the private client team at Roythornes, said: “Previously, the only way to administer a missing person case was via the probate courts by providing evidence that the individual concerned was presumed dead. In the case of the Lawrence family, this meant they had to wait seven years for an order to be made; for other families it means the devasting situation of having to officially acknowledge that their loved one has died. This new Act will change that to the benefit of anyone having to go through this tragic process.”

Claudia’s father, Peter Lawrence OBE has been campaigning for the change in law since his daughter’s disappearance with the support of the charity Missing Person.

The law creates a new legal status of “guardian” of the affairs of a missing person. Appointments will be made upon application to the court of appropriate individuals or a Trust Corporation that will be expected to act in the best interests of the missing person pending their potential return.

The guardian will be supervised by the Office of the Public Guardian in a similar fashion to those appointed as deputies for those with reduced capacity and will be expected to account for their actions on an annual basis. The appointments will be for an initial renewable period of four years.

The rights and powers that a guardian may be appointed to exercise include selling, letting or mortgaging the person’s property, making investments, executing deeds, discharging debts, or conducting legal proceedings on their behalf. However, they are unable to execute a will or exercise a power vested in the missing person as a trustee in relation to another person’s property.

Roythornes Court of Protection has a long pedigree of advising deputies and attorneys in Court of Protection matters and is therefore best placed to advise on the traumatic circumstances requiring these sorts of applications. Roythornes can also offer the services of Roythornes Trustees Limited as appointee is appropriate cases. For more information visit www.roythorne.co.uk and contact the private client team on 01775 842505 or follow @roythornes on Twitter.