If your husband mysteriously vanishes, whether over the Gulf of Mexico, with a mistress in Costa Rica, or in the belly of a tiger, Maryland has a process for declaring him dead.

First You Need a Guardianship

There is no presumption of death in Maryland just because someone is absent from their residence and has not been heard from for any set period of time. The first step is the establishment of a guardianship. These guardianship proceedings are conducted under the regular guardianship provisions of the Maryland Code.

Did You Bother to Look For Him?

Once a guardianship is filed, the Court can direct the guardian to look for the absentee. The Court can direct the guardian to put advertisements in newspapers, contact the local authorities, or even hire private investigators. It is up to each individual judge to determine the appropriateness of the actions. Presumably, the authorities would have already been contacted prior to the application for a guardianship. They may have even performed aerial searches over your property looking for clues as to where the missing person went. The statute does not detail what level of investigation is needed.

Declaration of Death

Once evidence is presented and the required investigations are complete, a court can declare someone dead. The guardianship proceeding is terminated and the estate would then be opened. There is no prescribed time period for the declaration of death. If, after five years from the appointment of the guardian or after one year if the person has been missing for more than twenty years, the court may then terminate the guardianship proceeding as if the missing person had died.

We Can Help

Our firm is open for business. We are accepting new clients and setting up video conferences. We have the experience and talent to help you in these times of trouble. Call us today if you have concerns about your guardianship provisions. We are also experts if you have been accused of animal cruelty.


W. Timothy Sutton