Missing Persons. When Can You Deem That Someone Has Actually died?

Sometimes, very unfortunately, loved ones go missing. They may never return from a hunting trip or from a hike in the mountains. How can we deal with their assets? Or take care of their bills while they are missing? What if they return home? In the rare and devastating case that they don’t return home, when can we deem that they are deceased and start to deal with their Estate?

This is a complicated issue. It is often difficult to gain a sense of closure when a loved one passes away, let alone if their body is never found. If there is “sufficient evidence” that a person is dead, you can try to apply to the Court for a Presumption of Death Order. What is “Sufficient evidence”? In general terms, it is evidence that is looked at in its totality regarding the circumstances relating to the disappearance of the missing person.

Strong evidence can include a number of items.  It could be affidavit evidence from the police and other sources, in terms of searches undertaken over a period of time for the missing person, phone records and/or banking records showing no activity for months on the accounts.

In the case that there is insufficient evidence that someone is deceased, but they have been missing for a certain period of time without contact with relatives or others they typically communicate with, the Court may appoint the Public Guardian and Trustee, or another suitable person on application to the Court, as custodian of the missing person’s property.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on incapacity planning/estate planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or [email protected]  Vanessa practices in the area of Real Estate and Wills & Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna.

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