A law named after missing York chef Claudia Lawrence is being introduced to help families take over the affairs of loved ones who have disappeared.
Claudia has not been seen since March 18 2009.
Police believe the 35-year-old from Heworth Road was murdered, although no body has ever been found.
“Claudia’s Law” creates a legal status of guardian of the affairs of a missing person, allowing families to act in their best interests after they have disappeared for 90 days or longer.
It will mean families can suspend direct debits for bills and make mortgage payments.
Previously, families could only take over the financial affairs of a missing person if they were declared dead.
An enormous help
Known as the Guardianship (Missing Person’s) Act 2017, the regulations will come into force on July 31.
Claudia’s father Peter – who has campaigned for change since his daughter’s disappearance – and charity Missing People backed the move.
Mr Lawrence said:
This will make such a difference to the lives of the hundreds of families who have been waiting so long for it, enabling them to deal with their missing loved one’s financial and property affairs in the same way as everyone else is able to on a daily basis.
One less burden at a time when families are at their emotional lowest ebb will help enormously.
Susannah Drury, Missing People’s director of policy and research, said: “This is a triumph for all the family members who have campaigned with us over the past decade and shown so powerfully why guardianship is needed.
“This regulation will mean that families who face the emotional distress of a disappearance will not be blocked from handling the financial and legal affairs of their loved ones.”
Removing a burden
Justice minister Paul Maynard said: “No family dealing with the despair of a loved one going missing should have to endure the additional stresses of administrative problems.
“Claudia’s law will mean families can oversee the financial and property affairs of their missing loved one – removing a huge burden at such a traumatic time.”
Families who are granted the status can look after their loved one’s affairs for up to four years before having the option of renewing.
The scheme will be operated and supervised by the Office of the Public Guardian.