How to Have a Missing Person Declared Dead

a Missing Person
••• Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

A missing person is someone who has disappeared, possibly not of his own free will. This extends to both adults and to children. From the moment you realize that someone you love is missing, it is crucial to document all possible information such as the date, any potential circumstances surrounding the disappearance and when you last saw her. Call the police to file a missing persons report. So many family members and friends hold on to the hope that the missing person will return; however, it may become apparent that the triumphant return is not going to happen. At some point, you may consider the process of declaring the missing person dead.

Declaring Someone Dead

Step 1

Know the laws in your area. National standards states that a person must be missing for seven years before he is declared legally dead. Some states, however, have amended their rules to reflect a shorter time frame. Also, some situations do not require a long waiting period. For example, different guidelines may apply if the missing person has disappeared under perilous circumstances, such as in an accident or from a natural disaster.

Step 2

Have proof to support your assumption that the missing person is deceased. To file an application declaring that the missing person is dead, you will need to provide evidence to support your contention. This can include evidence of impaired health at the time of disappearance, the age of the missing person if he is older than human life-expectancy or evidence that the person was facing some sort of danger. According to C. Edgar Sentell, a law professor and former member of the Federal Defense and Corporate Counsel, if faced with evidence that a missing person has most likely died, the court does not need to wait for the prescribed time frame.

Step 3

Be prepared to wait. After the courts receive your application to declare that the missing person is dead, a notice will be published in a national newspaper seeking any information on the person in question. If no information is received within six months, the court will declare the person dead. Of course, if proof is provided that the person is alive, the application will be denied.


  • Even if you have waited for the full seven years, you will need to show that the missing person has been missing for this period of time, has not contacted anyone who he would be expected to contact and that you have made all reasonable efforts to locate him.

Related Articles