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23rd February 2012

Call for new 'presumed dead' law

MPs have called for a change in the law to improve the "confusing, costly and emotionally exhausting" process involved in declaring someone "presumed dead".

The Commons Justice Select Committee said a single certificate should be introduced to make it easier for families to put their affairs in order.

Chairman Sir Alan Beith said: "The evidence we have heard from families faced with the problems of resolving these affairs is overwhelming. The law needs to be changed. The Government owes it to these families to look at this issue again very carefully before it responds to our report."

He added: "In some cases missing people have been held to have died in order to dissolve a marriage, while remaining technically alive in the eyes of mortgage lenders and other agencies."

Sir Alan said legislation based on the Scottish Presumption of Death Act 1977 should be brought forward for England and Wales in the next parliamentary session.

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