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New law will allow missing persons' families apply for 'presumption of death order'

The legislation will mean the affairs of a missing person who is presumed dead can be put in order.

Families attending the 2017 Missing Persons Day ceremony in Dublin.
Families attending the 2017 Missing Persons Day ceremony in Dublin.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

A BILL THAT will allow families of missing persons to apply for a presumption of death order has been approved by Cabinet.

The legislation when enacted will mean the estate of a missing person who is presumed to have died can be administered and their affairs can be put in order. It will also bring marriage or civil partnership to an end.

The bill started as a Private Members’ Bill, initiated by Senators Colm Burke, Marie-Louise O’Donnelland Lynn Ruane, but there is support for the proposed legislation on both sides of the House.

The government has submitted a number of technical amendments to the Civil Law (Presumption of Death) Bill and yesterday agreed for a money message to allow it to proceed to committee stage in the Dáil today.

Senator Burke welcomed the move, pointing out that as the law stands now, there is no legal procedure to allow for a person’s estate to be managed if they are missing and it is clear from all available evidence they have died.

“Their families and friends are left in limbo, unable to take any action in respect of the person’s affairs,” he said.

A death certificate cannot be issued, life insurance policies will not be processed and no decisions can be made in respect of the assets of the person’s estate.

The bill will apply where the circumstances of the disappearance indicate death is “virtually certain” or where the length of disappearance indicates it is highly probably the person has died.

Burke said the aim is to provide a clear pathway for families to “overcome those challenges at what is already a very difficult time”.

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