Managing the Estate of a Missing Person

In Australia it is National Missing Persons Week aiming to raise awareness of the impacts of missing persons within the community.

This years key message is

‘Missing persons leave frayed edges, Stay connected’

reminding us of the importance of staying connected with family and friends and enhancing the support networks for those most at risk of going missing.

We have discussed the process involved in declaring a missing person presumed dead which takes too long to provide practical, timely assistance to people wishing to look after an estate in the short or medium term.

In Australia, more than 35,000 people are reported missing each year. Of the many thousands of people that go missing in New South Wales 99.7 % are eventually located; 70% within three days, and, 86% within two weeks. Those who have been missing for more than a year are considered long term missing people.

The majority of missing people are subsequently found alive.

Daniel Rosewall left the office of the family business where he worked in Bendigo to attend an appointment in January 2010. He did not return.

His car was found abandoned just north of Silverton, near Broken Hill, New South Wales; his personal belongings still in the vehicle. According to his father Daniel’s disappearance was completely out of character.

The day to day management of Daniels personal affairs including paying bills from utilities companies, loans, and credit cards requiring payment could be handled relatively easily. His rent required payment – this and negotiating to end his lease could be managed by his family; however redirection of Daniel’s mail to his father’s address, was refused by Australia Post on privacy grounds.

In most Australian Jurisdictions there are very few options for administering the estate of a missing person. Following lobbying by Daniel’s family the Victorian government adopted laws to allow for the management of estates of missing persons that were similar to those in NSW and the ACT

Family members in those jurisdictions can seek an order providing that they can satisfy that:

(a) the person is a missing person, and

(b) the person’s usual place of residence is in this State, and

(c) it is in the best interests of the person to do so.

(2) The Court may be satisfied that a person is a missing person only if it is satisfied that:

(a) it is not known whether the person is alive, and

(b) all reasonable efforts have been made to locate the person, and

(c) persons residing at the place where the person was last known to reside, or relatives or friends with whom the person would be likely to communicate, have not heard from, or of, the person for at least 90 days.

Sadly in September 2012 Daniel’s remains were found near Broken Hill. His family, and the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre, should be commended for their advocacy to amend Victorian guardianship laws so that other families can manage their missing loved ones affairs.

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