How to Have a Missing Person Declared Dead

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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.


About the Author

Caryn Anderson combines extensive behind-the-scenes writing experience with her passion for all things food, fashion, garden and travel. Bitten by the travel bug at the age of 15 after a trip to Europe, Anderson fostered her love of style and fashion while living in New York City and earning her degree at New York University.

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  • Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images