Surprisingly, nearly 250,000 people go missing in the UK every year. Leaving aside the heartache and worry this causes, until recent changes in the law it also created an appalling position for family members trying to deal with the affairs of the person who had disappeared, as they had to be declared legally dead before any action could be taken – a procedure that took years.
Matters have been much simplified by the introduction of guardianship orders, which allow the finances and property of a missing person to be managed. They can be applied for at the High Court. They are available when a person is missing from home and:
- is missing for at least 90 days;
- is in prison abroad and cannot communicate;
- has been taken hostage or kidnapped; or
- you do not know where they are, or they cannot contact you to convey their decisions.
You can apply for the order if you are the missing person's:
- husband, wife or civil partner;
- brother or sister; or
- guardian already and are renewing the order.
You can also apply if you can give the court evidence that you have a 'sufficient interest' in the person's finances or property. These applications will be considered on the facts in each case, but would, for example, include the person's long-term partner.
A guardianship order costs £528 if you apply through the Chancery Division of the High Court or £245 if you apply through the Family Division. A security bond may also be payable. The Court may allow this to be paid from the person's funds.
When guardianship has been granted, a £200 set-up fee and an annual 'supervision fee' of £320 are payable.