A very high number of people go missing each year in the UK. The figure is about 275,000. About one third of the missing are adults.
Most people who go missing reappear relatively quickly but some disappear for decades. It is estimated that there are currently around 20,000 people who have been missing for at least a year.
Apart from the distress and grief they suffer, there are a number of practical problems for those who are left behind.
If no body has been found, then it is not possible to obtain a death certificate and make a claim on a life insurance policy.
Banks and Building Societies treat all financial information as confidential so it is impossible to get details of balances let alone access money in accounts or stop regular payments.
Families cannot extend a lease or sell a property. If there is a mortgage on the property, the only option may be for the mortgage company to repossess as the family have no legal authority to sell.
This has resulted in many cases of hardship especially where the missing person was the breadwinner and had dependents.
The government is now putting forward proposals to deal with this problem. They will be introducing a guardianship (missing persons) bill. This will mean that a person who has in interest in the finances of the missing person can apply to the court to be appointed as guardian for the missing person. If the bill is enacted, it will come into force in 2018.