Legislation that will give families of people who go missing the ability to administer their affairs is to come into effect: but not until July 2019. The Bill received the Royal Assent as long ago as April 2017, but the need for secondary regulations and legislation is such that it will take nearly another year to bring into effect.
The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 will allow the relatives of missing persons who are habitually resident in England and Wales to obtain an order to manage their financial affairs. A person need only be missing for 90 days before a guardianship application can be made, and in emergencies a shorter period may suffice if ‘a decision is needed, or is likely to be needed, in relation to property or financial affairs of the missing person before the day on which that condition would be met’.
At present, a missing person’s affairs can remain in limbo for years, causing considerable problems and distress – especially where they have been ‘casual’ about paperwork (such as trading in partnership without a formal agreement).