How do I look after my loved-one’s finances when they are missing?

The recent sad events surrounding Nicola Bulley going missing in Lancashire brought up memories for many, of Claudia Lawrence’s disappearance in Yorkshire in 2009. The key difference in the cases is that Claudia has never been found.

Back in 2009, when a person went missing, there was no law or even precedent for what should happen with the missing person’s property or finances, which essentially meant that bills could go unpaid, debts accrued, and financial provisions for children left to go untendered. This led to Claudia’s father pursuing what is now commonly known as Claudia’s Law.

What is Claudia’s Law?

Following Claudia’s disappearance, her father fought tirelessly to have a new law introduced that would allow a missing person’s family and loved-ones to be guardians for that person’s property and finances whilst they remain missing. The law he brought into being for is formally called the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017, but is more commonly called Claudia’s Law and came into force on the 1st of July 2019.

What is the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017?

Under the Guardianship Act, anyone who has “sufficient interest” can apply to be made a Guardian over a missing person’s property and money. Although “sufficient interest” has not been defined, if you are the husband/wife, civil partner, child, sibling, or parent of the missing person, it is very likely that you would be able to apply.

  • Once the Court has considered your application, and all the supporting evidence, they will make a decision on whether you are the right person (or people) to be guardian(s). If so, they will issue a Guardianship Order which will specify what you can and cannot do in relation to your missing loved-one’s property and finances. This Order allows the Guardian to do things such as:to continue to pay the mortgage on property owned by the missing person – either in their sole name or jointly with someone else;
  • to manage investments;
  • to pay household bills;
  • to continue to pay their children’s school fees;
  • to access funds needed to support their children in other ways.

If there is something specific that you need to do, but which is not included in the Guardianship Order, then you can make a further application to the Court for specific permission to do this.

Everything you do as a Guardian has to be in the best interests of the missing person, and you must keep clear and detailed records of everything you do in case you are asked to report to the Office of the Public Guardian or the Court in future.

Your must give notice to certain people (e.g. family members who aren’t applying) and also in a public newspaper as part of the application and it is possible that someone notified in this way might object. This is rare, but can happen, so if you have any concerns that someone might challenge your application, let your solicitor know straight away and they advise you about this.

If you are in need of assistance wiht a missing person then contact us at any of our offices to discuss further.

Bank House, 1 Burton Street, Wakefield, WF1 2GF
Tel: 01924 290029

Westbourne House, 99 Lidgett Lane, Garforth, Leeds, LS25 1LJ
Tel: 0113 246 4423

25 Bank Street, Ossett, WF5 8PS
Tel: 01924 586 466

Sherburn in Elmet
6 Finkle Hill, Sherburn in Elmet, Leeds, LS25 6EA
Tel: 01977 350 500

41a Towngate, Mapplewell, S75 6AS
Tel: 01223 339 009

About Melanie Pickering

Mel joined Thornton Jones Solicitors in November 2021 having worked in Law since 2004 occupying various positions from junior posts through to becoming a fully qualified solicitor.

In 2009 Mel completed her studies at law school and subsequently completed her training contract and in October 2017 qualified as a solicitor specialising in Private Client, Contentious Probate and Missing Persons Law. Mel admits that she “loves Law because it’s always changing and there’s always something new to learn”.

Outside of work, Mel lives with her husband and cat, and loves to do charity work being an Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friend since 2015 and a Dementia Friends Champion since 2018. She is also a keen supporter of Cancer Research UK ‘Race for Life’ having taken part every year since 2010 and raising much needed funds in the process.

The content of this blog post is for information only and does not constitute formal legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited accepts no liability for any such reliance upon this content. Where the post includes links to external websites, Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited accepts no responsibility for the content of such sites. Any link to a third party website should not be construed as endorsement by Thornton Jones Solicitors Limited of any content, products or services which are outside our direct control.

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