With the general election hogging the headlines, the passing of the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017, which received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017, went almost unreported.
Although the date on which the Act will come into force has not yet been set, it is a welcome addition to the statute books as it will allow the affairs of missing persons to be dealt with by their loved ones. Currently, there is no simple way that allows the affairs of such people to be managed or for many actions to be taken in their absence, and the problems that can result can be severe.
The Act will change this by allowing relatives of a missing person who is domiciled or habitually resident in England or Wales to obtain a 'guardianship order' from the court. The order will allow the appointed guardian to manage the missing person's financial affairs in his or her best interests.
Somewhat controversially, the Act stipulates that a person need only be missing for 90 days before a guardianship application can be made, and in emergencies a shorter period may suffice if 'a decision is needed, or is likely to be needed, in relation to property or financial affairs of the missing person before the day on which that condition would be met'.