The UK Rules
Get a Declaration of Presumed Death

Getting a Declaration of Presumed Death

This section explains how to get a declaration of presumed death and the grounds for doing so. Find out who can make a claim, the court fees, and what conditions apply.

Any claim to get a declaration of presumed death would need to go to the High Court.

To proceed, you would need to know someone in England and Wales who has been missing for a period of:

Note: The law in the United Kingdom does not 'automatically' presume a missing person as dead.

So, there are several valid reasons to make a claim for a presumption of death declaration. For example, it would be necessary if you want to deal with the estate of a missing person.

Having 'Sufficient Interest' (who can make a claim)

As a rule, the spouse (or civil partner), parent, child, or sibling of a missing person can make a claim. Most other claimants would need to prove some connection to the missing person.

Note: The court considers this as 'sufficient interest'. A typical example would be a distant relative (with a birth certificate as proof).

Conditions for Making a Claim

At least one of these circumstances must also apply to meet the criteria of a valid claim:

Note: Different rules and procedures apply for the presumption of death in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.

Paying Court Fees

The court fee for getting a declaration of presumed death is £528. You can use Form EX160 to apply for help with fees from a court. You may not need to pay at all or get some money off.

Making a Claim

A legal representative can make a claim for a declaration of presumed death on your behalf. You can also make it yourself by following these three steps.

1. Make a Claim

Start by downloading the document titled 'Form N208: Claim form (CPR Part 8)' (English or Welsh version). It has extra guidance notes about:

Form N208 has further guidance on filling in the application. You must include all the information in the section titled 'claim for variation order'. It is part of the 'procedure for claims – Rule 57.19'.

You may need to find a court that can hear High Court cases. Send the form to the court and remember to include:

Note: The court will keep a copy of the N208 form and stamp an issue date on yours. They will return all other copies and give you a case number with 'acknowledgement of service' forms.

Sending Copies of a Claim to Others

You will need to send out an acknowledgment of service form and a copy of form N208. Send them within seven (7) days of the court issue date to (both):

2. Advertise the Claim in a Newspaper

If you make a claim to change or cancel a presumption of death certificate you must advertise it in a newspaper. It must be a newspaper that is local to the last known address of the missing person.

Note: Place the advertisement within seven (7) days of the court issue date stamped on the claim form.

Placing a Standard Text Advert

You should use the following 'standard text' for the newspaper advert. You will need to delete and replace words as necessary to achieve the correct details. The person making the claim is the 'claimant'.

“In the High Court of Justice [Chancery] [Family] Division

Case number [insert case number]

In the matter of an application for a declaration of the presumed death of [insert the missing person’s name].

A claim has been issued in the High Court of Justice, for a variation of a declaration that [insert missing person’s name] whose last known address was [insert missing person’s address] is presumed to be dead. Any person having an interest may apply to the court to intervene in the matter.

If you wish to apply to the court, you should do so at [court address] as soon as possible, and if possible within 21 days of the date of this notice. Delay may harm your prospects of being able to intervene.

(If the claimant is legally represented)
[Name of the claimant’s legal representative]
[Address of the claimant’s legal representative]
(If the claimant is not legally represented)
[Claimant’s address for service]”

Sending a Copy to the Court

You must send a copy of the newspaper page to the court to arrive within five (5) of the hearing. The copy should show the details of the advertisement placement.

3. Attend a Hearing

You will need to attend a hearing with a High Court judge. As a rule, this should take place within two (2) months of the original claim. Take any relevant documents with you to the hearing.

Others will receive a copy of the claim form or they may see the newspaper advert. Someone with a valid reason may choose to challenge a claim for a presumption of death declaration.

During the court hearing the panel might:

Note: The hearing should determine whether the court agrees with your application. If so, the court will change or cancel a presumption of death certificate either at the hearing or later by letter.

GRO Certificate of Presumed Death

You can get a certificate of presumed death from the General Register Office for £9.25. But, before applying you must wait until after:

As a rule, you can apply for the certificate 21 days after receiving the declaration. You may need to wait longer if someone appeals or they make an application for permission to appeal the decision.

General Register Office
Telephone: 0300 123 1837
Monday to Friday: 8am to 8pm
Saturday: 9am to 4pm

You would be able to use the document the same as a normal death certificate. It states when the missing person is presumed to have died. So, it would be useful if you are dealing with the estate of a missing person.


Challenge a Presumption of Death Claim | How to 'intervene in' a presumption of death declaration.

Change a Presumption of Death Certificate | Changing or cancelling a presumption of death certificate.

Appealing a Court Decision

You should contact the Civil Appeals Office if you want to appeal against a decision made by the High Court.

Civil Appeals Office
Room E307
Royal Courts of Justice
The Strand
London WC2A 2LL

Telephone: 0207 947 7121
Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm
Current phone call charges list.

Making a Complaint

The new HMCTS complaints procedure replaces the withdrawn EX343 guidance. Use it to make a complaint about HM Courts and Tribunals Service. You cannot complain about the decision but they can help with complaints about:

How to Get a Declaration of Presumed Death in United Kingdom