The Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill: Important Changes on the Horizon

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Certain areas of law see fewer updates and changes than others- you are much more likely to see revisions to criminal legislation than you are in the field of wills and probate, but an important change is on the horizon in an often-neglected area.

One recent proposal put forward by the Government sees a significant update likely to take effect in 2018; the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Bill would allow a guardian to ‘stand in the shoes’ of a missing person in relation to their property and financial affairs.

The law would apply in England and Wales only, permitting the guardian to make decisions in the ‘best interests’ of the missing person. Given that relatives of missing persons are experiencing a time of great distress and uncertainty, the Bill offers important practical guidance:

  • Defines when a person is said to be ‘missing’ (their whereabouts are not sufficiently known to the guardian to enable contact and decision-making)

  • Covers situations in which a person is ‘unable to make effective decisions or to communicate such decisions for reasons beyond their control'

To apply, a person will need to show ‘sufficient interest’- so it is likely to cover relatives and spouses. Their guardianship will also be subject to supervision by the Office of the Public Guardian (which means it can be revoked) and will be for a maximum of 4 years.

The Government estimates that approximately 50-100 guardians will be appointed each year, with fees in the region of £400-£530.

If you have any queries in relation to the issues covered in this article, or would like an initial discussion about guardianship matters, please contact Lucy and the Wills and Probate team on 0113 284 5000.

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