A LAW named after missing chef Claudia Lawrence has been be introduced to help families take over the affairs of loved ones who have disappeared.

“Claudia’s law”, the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act 2017, will create a special legal status to allow someone to be appointed as guardian of the affairs of a missing person and was introduced as a Private Members’ Bill by Ryedale MP Kevin Hollinrake.

Claudia, 35, who is originally from Malton, was last seen on CCTV on her way home from work at the University of York on March 18, 2009.

She failed to arrive for her 6am shift the next day and police launched a search and missing person appeal, but despite huge efforts to find her, her disappearance remains a mystery

The new act means families can act in the missing person’s best financial interests after they have been missing for 90 days or longer (less in case of urgency) - such as suspending direct debits for bills, ensuring debts do not accumulate and making mortgage payments in order to avoid the distress of properties being repossessed and businesses being ruined.

Previously, when a person went missing, their family had no legal right to step in to manage their financial affairs unless the person was declared dead.

It is now possible for the High Court to appoint a guardian to manage the property and finances of a person. The guardianship lasts for up to four years and can be renewed for further periods of up to four years. The Guardian will be able to make decisions which are in the best interests of the missing person based on numerous factors set out in the new law.

Peter Lawrence, Claudia’s father and consultant at Ware & Kay Solicitors, said: “This will make such a difference to the lives of the hundreds of families who have been waiting so long for it, enabling them to deal with their missing loved one’s financial and property affairs in the same way as everyone else is able to on a daily basis.

“It will remove a huge burden at a time when families are at their emotional lowest ebb and this will help enormously.”

Mr Hollinrake said he was delighted the act had become law.

He said: “I know from talking to Peter how incredibly difficult it can be if families have the additional worry about the financial affairs of their missing loved one, without being able to do anything about it.”

Emma Elwess, Ware & Kay director said “This is a triumph for all family members who have campaigned and shows why guardianship is needed.

“The sudden absence of a family member or friend is devastating and this law will mean that families who face the emotional distress of the disappearance of a loved one will not be blocked from handling the financial and legal affairs as they come to terms with the situation they are facing.”