On 27 April 2017, a Bill to allow families to manage the property and affairs of missing persons received Royal Assent. The new Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act, which will apply in England Wales, will enable applications to be made to the courts for the appointment of a guardian in respect of a missing person’s property and financial affairs.
The new law is welcomed by Hostage UK as it will benefit the families of longer-term hostages and the returning hostages themselves. Currently, family members have no rights to access or manage the property or finances of their loved ones who have been kidnapped, which means that in addition to the enormous strain of their loved one being held captive, the family may face innumerable financial difficulties. These difficulties may be connected with the inability to control direct debits or standing orders on the hostage’s accounts or failure to meet mortgage payments. Hostages likewise face the possibility of returning from the trauma of captivity to find their savings depleted or their home repossessed.
The new law, which will come into force next year, will allow the courts to appoint a guardian to manage the property and financial affairs of a person being held hostage for more than 90 days. The courts will consider applications from the spouse, civil partner, parent, child or sibling of the hostage and will look carefully at the suitability of the appointment, which may be subject to restrictions and can be for up to four years.
A law in Scotland already exists to allow family members the right to apply to manage their missing loved one’s financial affairs.