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How long does a person have to be missing before they can be declared legally dead?

Lexington, KY |
Filed under: Estate planning

My brother, Roy Hastings, was involved in an accident on a bridge on I-24 February 10. 2011. It is believed that he was knocked off the bridge, a 128 foot drop into the icy water. The river and its banks were searched for days, but no body was found. As of this date he is still missing. The whole story is on the internet.

Attorney Answers 2


I'm terribly sorry for your loss. The answer to your question will vary by state. Texas, for example, uses a 7-year period the last time I checked. I'm not familiar with I-24, but I presume that it's in Kentucky. Talk it over with a Kentucky attorney to determine if the circumstances surrounding your brother's absence might impact whatever time period Kentucky uses.

This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted to practice law in the State of Texas only, and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to Texas. This answer is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation, and is for promotional purposes only. You should not rely on this answer alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney-client relationship.

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If a police investigation conclusively determines that your brother died in the accident, despite the lack of a body, they may still get the appropriate authority in your area to issue a certificate of death, in which case the estate can likely be submitted to probate immediately. If no certificate of death is issued, however, the only way to probate the estate is through a statute governing presumption of death in cases of absence, discussed above, which most states have and is usually seven years from the person's dissappearance/last known presence in the state.

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