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A Mysterious Disappearance – Part 1

We recently received a call from Joe.  He said his brother, Jim, who lives in New Jersey with his family, went to South America on a fishing trip.  When the boat returned to shore Jim was nowhere to be found and the crew had no answers as to what happened to him.

It was now 60 days since Jim had disappeared Joe told me that Jim has assets and life insurance.  He called to ask how those assets could be accessed to help Jim’s wife and children pay the bills.  Joe said he believes there was foul play and that Jim is dead, however, a death certificate has not been issued since no body has been recovered.

I explained that without a death certificate Jim’s will can’t be probated and the life insurance company won’t pay out the death benefit under his life insurance policy.  Joe said that a local investigation is being conducted to determine whether any civil or criminal charges will be filed concerning Jim’s disappearance.  I told Joe that at the conclusion of that investigation he should request that a death certificate be issued. He can then proceed with accessing Jim’s assets.

“But I have no idea how long that will take”, Joe told me.  He asked about other alternatives.  “Is there a process in New Jersey by which Joe can be declared dead now?”

I told Joe that there is a process by which someone can be declared dead but it is too early for him to pursue this route.  Next week I’ll explain more.