Lord Lucan and the Presumption of Death Act 2013

Posted by James Greig on
A decision passed down by the High Court today has propelled the Presumption of Death Act 2013 into the headlines. The family of the notorious peer, Lord Lucan, has managed to obtain a death certificate 42 years after his disappearance and despite the fact that his body has never been found.

Of all the beings that have disappeared in mysterious circumstances (notable examples including Shergar, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and Glenn Miller), the vanishing of Lord Lucan arguably captures the imagination above all: who could help but be captivated by a dashing, dissolute, and profligate aristocrat wanted for the murder of the nanny of his three children? This is sensation straight from the wild imaginings of Alexandre Dumas!

However, perhaps one of the final chapters in this fascinating narrative has been written. The only son of Lord Lucan, George Bingham, has today been granted a death certificate by the High Court and now inherits the title of the Eighth Earl of Lucan. Relying upon the Presumption of Death Act 2013, the Bingham family has finally managed to obtain a conclusive declaration of death.

After much lobbying by the families of missing persons, the Presumption of Death Act 2013 came into force on 1 October 2014 and was enacted in order to simplify the process of managing the affairs of a missing person presumed to be dead. Under this Act, the High Court may make a declaration of presumed death if it is satisfied that the missing person is dead or has not been known to be alive for a period of at least 7 years. Despite there being many reported sightings of Lord Lucan over the years, the High Court was satisfied that a declaration of death could be made and passed down its decision today.

As a result of the decision, the Bingham family can perhaps get a degree of closure that had been elusive for so long and resolve any outstanding issues in regards to Lord Lucan's estate. You will hopefully not encounter such drama in your lifetime as that of Lord Lucan's family but, following the death of a loved one, please contact the Succession and Tax team if you need any assistance in the administration of an estate.

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James is the head of our Wills, probate, tax and trusts team based in the Thames Valley.

James Greig
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