New law will assist families of missing loved ones

Hutchinson Thomas’ Simon Thomas, Beth Lewis and Louise Williams with journalist and broadcaster Paul Lewis at Deputy Day, London.

A new law is set to come into force on 31 July 2019 that will help families of loved ones who have been missing for 90 days or more.

The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act, known as Claudia’s law, will enable a legal status of guardian of the affair of a loved one who has disappeared. The law has been named after Claudia Lawrence, who went missing in York during 2009. Her father campaigned for the new law, highlighting how much help it would be to families who have experienced a loved one going missing.

Previously, families had no legal right to manage the affairs of a loved one who went missing. The only way in which families could manage their financial affairs is if they declared them dead, adding to the emotional distress during such a difficult time.

The new legislation aims to change this through enabling family members to deal with the property and financial matters of a loved one. For example, the law will enable money to be moved, direct debits to be cancelled, mortgages to be amended and investments to be made.

Her Honour Judge Hilder outlined this type of deputyship along with other developments at the Court of Protection at the annual Deputy Day in London recently attended by Hutchinson Thomas’ Louise Williams, Beth Lewis and Simon Thomas.

This event attracts the top speakers in the field and this year was chaired by Paul Lewis of BBC Radio 4’s Money Box.

Louise Williams, partner and head of probate, wills and trusts at Hutchinson Thomas, said:

“Not being able to manage the affairs of a loved one who is missing has been a tremendous obstacle for families who are going through such a terrible time. Having to declare a loved one as dead in order to protect their affairs is extremely distressing. It can also incur inheritance taxes and issues surrounding repossessions and insolvency.

“This new law seeks to amend this burden and free families from the strain of administrative issues when experiencing incredible emotional distress. Families who are granted status under the new legislation are able to manage their loved one’s affairs for up to four years and this can be extended if necessary. This will be welcomed by the many families who have longed to safeguard the affairs of a loved one and will hopefully ease the devastation of their loss.”

For more information on the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act, contact Louise Williams on 01639 640153 or email