'Presumed dead' law to come into force

The Presumption of Death Act was passed in March 2013 to help families to resolve legal affairs on behalf of their missing relatives. However, ministers have been criticised for taking a further 19 months to bring the legislation into force.

The legislation was the result of a campaign supported by relatives of high profile missing people, such as Claudia Lawrence, who disappeared in York in 2009, and The Manic Street Preachers’ guitarist Richey Edwards, who went missing in 1995.

Presumption of death certificates will be equivalent to death certificates, and can be applied for by relatives of people who have been missing for 7 years, presumed dead. This will allow the missing person’s legal and financial affairs to be taken care of.

The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, told the Justice Select Committee that the law would be applied on 1 October 2014.

Mr Grayling said: "It is bad enough losing a loved one, but losing a loved one without really knowing what has happened is a terrible thing to have to go through, and I hope that this will at least ease some of those burdens."

The justice minister, Lord Faulks QC, said: “No one can prepare for the heartache and confusion arising from the disappearance of a loved one, gone with no trace.

“I am delighted that from October 2014, the certificate of presumed death will see a significant step forward for those families facing the terrible situation of losing a loved one. It creates a simpler legal framework to ensure bereaved people can better deal with the property and affairs of a loved one who has gone missing and is presumed dead.”