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:
- Seven (7) years (or longer).
- Less than seven years if you think they already died (e.g. they got caught up in a natural disaster and have been missing since).
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:
- You are the spouse or the civil partner of the missing person and:
- You are treating England or Wales as your domicile (permanent home) on the date of the claim.
- You lived in England or Wales for the full year before the date that you make a claim.
- The missing person (either):
- Lived in England or Wales for the full year before the date that they were last known to be alive.
- Treated England or Wales as their domicile (permanent home) on the date that they were last known to be alive.
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:
- The claimant [you]
- The defendant [the missing person]
- The claim
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:
- N208 form: One copy should go to the court and another copy for each person named in the form.
- Any supporting evidence relevant to the case (e.g. police reports, witness statements).
- The claim fee. Make it payable to ‘HM Courts and Tribunals Service’ if you pay by cheque.
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):
- The spouse (or civil partner), parents, children, and siblings of the missing person. Send the forms to the nearest relative if none of the others are alive.
- Any other organisation or person that may also have an interest in the case (e.g. an insurance company).
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:
- Ask you for more information. You can apply for a court order if someone refuses to give you the information that you need.
- Inform you that there needs to be another hearing. There may be a need for several hearings to bring the case to a conclusion.
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:
- Anyone decides to appeal it.
- The time limit for appealing against the decision passes.
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.
ALSO IN THIS SECTION
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
Royal Courts of Justice
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:
- The facilities at their venues.
- The way their administrative staff handled your case.