After a loved one goes missing, their financial affairs roll on. Utilities must still be paid or there is a chance they might lose their home. After a storm breaks a windowpane, someone must to repair it. However the missing person’s bank cannot compensate them because the law froze their estate.
There is a way out, of course. Their loved ones could ask a court to declare them dead, where after the probate process kicks in to wind up their estate. This can be too painful for their grieving relatives to bear. That’s because it represents accepting that a knock on the door will never come.
Opening a Window on the Real Claudia
Claudia Elizabeth Lawrence vanished on March 18, 2009 aged 35. She was chef at the University of York, and has still not been found after 10 years. A series of murder investigations followed. Police arrested various suspects and questioned them. All later went free.
Nobody knows what happened to Claudia Elizabeth Lawrence despite determined attempts. She left her passport and bank cards at home after a bar worker messaged her at 9:12 pm in the evening. Claudia’s father never accepted she was dead.
However, he did campaign for the right for a guardian to manage his daughter’s affairs, so someone could, for example stop a direct debit order on her accounts. Two years later, in June, 2019 his hopes came true when ‘Claudia’s Law’ came into force.
How Claudia’s Law Works in Practice
In a nut shell, the new law helps people close to missing persons manage their affairs as guardians. Thus they no longer have to ask for a declaration of death. A court may appoint one of them as guardian, if their loved one has been missing for over ninety days.
The Guardianship (Missing Person’s) Act also applies to people kidnapped, held hostage, or in prison abroad. Their permission is no longer necessary – if indeed this were possible. A competent court listens to the evidence before them, and decides.
Families in these situations are dealing with high levels of emotional stress – and a sense of helplessness, Tasoula Addison of a leading firm of solicitors says. This is not only regarding the safety of their loved ones. It is also not being in a position to manage their financial affairs.
Claudia’s Law Releases the Legal Log Jam
There is no need to go through the expensive, traumatic experience of declaring a loved one dead. Moreover, the up-to-seven-year delay waiting for probate falls away, Families can now manage a missing person’s assets as they believe they would wish, within three months that can fly by fast.
Peter Lawrence OBE, Claudia’s father told The Money “This will make such a difference to the lives of the hundreds of families who have been waiting so long for it, enabling them to deal with their missing loved one’s financial and property affairs in the same way as everyone else is able to on a daily basis.
“One less burden at a time when families are at their emotional lowest ebb will help enormously.” He knows, because he has experienced the anguish first hand. He richly deserves the OBE Prince William awarded him for taking the lead.