A CERTIFICATE declaring someone as presumed dead is to be brought in to help families resolve the affairs of a missing person.
The Ministry of Justice has announced the introduction of a certificate of presumed death – the equivalent to a death certificate in its legal power and will go a long way in simplifying the processes and problems faced by those left behind.
Currently, families need death certificates in order to resolve issues with banks and bills. Without that, families need to go to court for help.
The new certificate would give families the authority to begin sorting out their loved one’s financial affairs
Trish Cooper, of Brockholes, whose brother Steven Cooper, of Golcar went missing in 2008, said it was a “massive step forward”.
“It’s fantastic news, it will really make a big difference to everyone who has a family member missing,” she said.
“It doesn’t bring my brother back or make me miss him any less, we’ve got two and a half years to wait before we can do anything and I don’t know how any of us will feel doing that, but it will help families.
“Having to go to the court every time you need to do something is not easy, it can take months, years even, to resolve any issues so this is a massive step forward.
“I must thank the Missing People charity and people like Peter Lawrence and Kate McCann who have really put their own stresses aside to push for this.
“It can’t have been easy for them but what they’ve all done is make it a bit easier for families like ours.”
Mr Cooper had celebrated his 47th birthday when he went missing in Scotland on January 21, 2008. His car was found near Loch Laggan, which was last year searched by divers and high technology equipment, but nothing was found.
Having a presumption of death certificate in place will help families deal with legal and financial issues that need to be resolved when a person is missing and presumed dead, such as cancelling direct debits with a mobile phone company or accessing bank accounts.
Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said: “We recognise the emotional rollercoaster faced by families who are left behind. Having a family member disappear with no trace will always be a confusing and difficult time for any family to have to go through.
“The changes we are announcing will ensure that there is a law in place that provides a simple legal framework by which families of missing people can receive the appropriate guidance and tackle the problems they face in a straightforward way.”
The Missing People charity welcomed the move, adding that it wanted the Government to identify the “parliamentary time to make this legislation happen”.
Missing People chief executive Martin Houghton-Brown said: “This announcement shows significant intention to work towards a better future for families of missing people, representing huge step towards easing their heartache with clear legislative guidance.”
A presumption of death certificate is already in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland.