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Claudia’s Law to help families of missing persons

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The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017 comes into force today, introducing much needed legislation that allows the appointment of a guardian for the property and financial affairs of a missing person.

Also referred to as Claudia’s Law, after Claudia Lawrence, who disappeared without a trace in York ten years ago this year, the new rules will make it much easier for relatives of a missing person, who was resident in England or Wales, to take control of that person’s property and financial affairs. Until today, nothing could be done to manage the property and financial affairs of a missing person, unless that person was declared dead under the Presumption of Death Act 2013.

Under Claudia’s Law, one or more relatives of a missing person aged over 18, or a suitably qualified professional, may apply to the Court to be appointed as guardian in respect of some, or all of, the financial affairs of a person who has been missing for at least 90 days. It must be in the missing person’s best interests for a guardian to be appointed and the Court will need to be satisfied that the proposed guardian is the most suitable person to take up such an appointment. This will include consideration of, amongst other things, the proposed guardian’s relationship with the missing person; the missing person’s view of the proposed guardian, as far as it can be ascertained; whether the proposed guardian has the requisite skills and knowledge to carry out the guardian function; and whether there are any potential conflicts between the missing person’s affairs and the proposed guardian’s affairs.

Once appointed by the Court, a guardian will be supervised by the Office of the Public Guardian, who is already responsible for the supervision of Court-appointed Deputies and Attorneys under registered Lasting and Enduring Powers of Attorney. The Court may require a guardian give security to the Public Guardian to safeguard the missing person’s financial affairs and to submit periodical reports on the missing person’s affairs, both of which are in line with the requirements for a property and financial affairs Deputy. A Deputy [LW1] is a person who is appointed to administer the financial affairs of a person who lacks capacity to make certain decisions.

There will be a Code of Practice, currently in draft form until it is approved by Parliament, in accessible language, available to people who wish to find out more about making an application to be appointed as a guardian for a missing person.

If you require any further advice on this matter please email Clare King, Legal Director at Clarion, or call her on 0113 336 3363.

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