Get a missing person declared dead

Last updated: 9 May 2017

If you believe someone is dead, but their body is missing, you can't get a death certificate.

You'll need a death certificate if you want to:

  • access any money someone owns in their name
  • carry out what the person has asked for in their will
  • stop bills for any money they owe
  • end your marriage or civil partnership because your partner is missing

To be able to get a death certificate you'll need to apply to a court to declare the missing person dead. This process is known as getting a 'declarator of death' from the court.

How to apply

You should find a solicitor to help you raise a court action to declare a death. The solicitor will need to convince the court that the missing person has died. There needs to be a reason for raising the court action, either:

  • they have been missing for at least 7 years
  • they have been missing for less than 7 years and the person, for some reason, is thought to have died – for example if they go missing at sea and it's not likely that they could have survived

Who can apply

Anyone can raise an action in court as long as the missing person was living in Scotland for the last 12 months before they went missing.

If they weren't living in Scotland you can also raise an action if you:

  • are the spouse or civil partner of the missing person
  • have lived in Scotland for at least the last 12 months before you make a claim

'Living in Scotland' means that Scotland is your permanent home, or that the house where you live most of the time is in Scotland.

After an action is raised

If the court agrees a missing person has died, the court will grant a 'declarator of death'. The court will then inform the National Records of Scotland (NRS), who will register the death. You can then order a death certificate from the NRS.

Find out more about getting help with money or your home after someone has died.