Claudia’s Law: new law to help the families of missing people

A new law has come in to force to help the families of missing people take control of their missing loved ones’ financial affairs.

Claudia’s Law – officially called the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 was named after Claudia Lawrence, who was reported missing in 2009, at the age of 35. A decade after her disappearance, the police still do not know what happened to her. They suspect that she was murdered, but her body was never found. Her father, Peter Lawrence, has campaigned tirelessly for the law in this country to change, so it can authorise family members to step in and safeguard their loved one’s assets in their absence.

One less burden at a time when families are at their emotional lowest ebb will help enormously. – Peter Lawrence

Claudia’s Law officially came in to effect on 21st July 2019, allowing court-appointed Guardians to look after the affairs of people missing for over 90 days. The family can now apply to the High Court to be declared with the position of “Guardian of the affairs of a missing person” in order to be permitted to look after the financial affairs of the absent person.

Prior to this, under The Presumption of Death Act 2013, there was no legal way for families of missing persons to deal with their financial affairs unless they were declared deceased. There have been previous cases where parents with children have faced evictions because they could not access their missing partner’s assets. The new law will allow the guardian to act on a missing person’s behalf to suspend payments such as direct debits and mortgages.

The introduction of this Act will help ease pressure on families of missing persons by eliminating the stress placed on them concerning administrative and financial matters for their missing loved ones. This means they will not have to face this burden at an already extremely traumatic and stressful time.

Applications for Guardianship must be made to the High Court and, if successful, will be overseen by the Office of the Public Guardian. Applicants must produce evidence the person has been missing for 90 days and also provide a witness statement.

A worrying statistic by ‘Missing People’, the only charity in the UK dedicated to bringing missing adults and children back together with their families, claims that someone will be reported missing every 90 seconds. They also claim that 186,000 people are reported missing every year.

This regulation will mean that families who face the emotional distress of a disappearance will not be blocked from handling the financial and legal affairs of their loved ones. – Susannah Drury, Missing People’s Director of Policy and Research

Implementing Claudia’s Law will give families one less issue to worry about and will allow them to maintain their focus on finding their loved ones.

No family dealing with the despair of a loved one going missing should have to endure the additional stresses of administrative problems. – Justice Minister Paul Maynard

If you or someone you know has reported a missing person, please call Missing People on their free, 24/7, confidential helpline on 116 000 to receive instant support in the search to find your loved one.

If you require assistance on matters relating to missing persons or are looking for some advice from our specialist lawyers on how to move forward please call us on 01707 329333.