The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 comes into effect today. The act is also called 'Claudia's Law', after Claudia Lawrence, who went missing over 10 years ago. Police believe she was murdered, but her body has never been found.Claudia's father Peter and the charity Missing People have tirelessly campaigned for a change in the law to help families and friends navigate the emotional and practical difficulties for those affected by the disappearance of a loved one.
180,000 people are reported missing every year in Britain. Thankfully 80% of adults are found within 24 hours, but 4% vanish for a week or more.
The new law allows families to apply to Court for guardianship of a person's affairs if they have been missing for 90 days. The guardian will be able to manage their bank accounts and pay bills in a similar way to an attorney under a Lasting Power of Attorney or a Deputy appointed by the Court of Protection.Like those appointments, the scheme will be managed by the Office of the Public Guardian and the guardian must act in the best interests of the person whose affairs they are looking after.Previously, families could only take over management of a person's affairs if they had been declared dead under the Presumption of Death Act 2013.While the presumption of death route suits some families, for others the idea of having a missing person declared dead when they believe the person is actually still alive can be incredibly traumatic.The new guardianship option is therefore long overdue and very welcome.To read more about the experience of those who go missing and those left behind, and to learn about the work of the charity Missing People, I recommend this thoughtful and sensitive article by Big Issue: https://www.bigissuenorth.com/features/2019/07/my-life-missing/
Before now, there was no legal way for the financial affairs of a missing person to be dealt with by someone else if they had not been declared dead. The guardian will be able to act on their behalf, suspending direct debits for mobile phones, making mortgage payments and so on.