In the unusual circumstances where someone disappears without a trace, the family can be left in limbo without the right to a death certificate or a grant of probate. For example Richey Edwards, the lead singer of the Manic Street Preachers had disappeared for 13 years before the family was able to obtain a death certificate. This can lead to family property being wasted or falling in value.
From October 2014 new rules came into place allowing the High Court to make a declaration of presumed death, and importantly a declaration as to the person’s domicile on death. A declaration as to domicile is important if there is to be any claim against the estate.This might be needed where the estate would otherwise be shared out unfairly.
Unsurprisingly, if the person returns from the dead, there is a provision to allow the court to revoke any declaration of death.