What happens in the case of missing persons

Other legal aspects in case of missing persons

Life insurance

Life insurance policies typically require a death certificate or judicial declaration of death of a missing person before payments are made to the beneficiaries.

Access to accounts and savings books

The accounts and passbooks of a missing person can only be accessed by authorized persons, i.e. persons with a power of attorney. It is advisable to appoint an absentee curator.

If the missing person has been declared dead and the probate procedure has been initiated, the heirs can receive access rights after submitting a declaration of inheritance.

Inheritance law

Probate proceedings cannot be initiated as long as the death has not been recorded or declared in a court of law. An informal handover of the inheritance is not intended.

More information can be found in the chapter "Probate proceedings".

Right of residence

If the missing person has rented an apartment, the financial obligations (rent and operating costs) continue even during the absence. If this does not happen, the landlord can also claim them in court.

If the tenant is not grossly at fault for his or her payment arrears (e.g. if you are injured by a catastrophe abroad and are prevented from returning home for a long time), termination can also be averted in the event of later payment.


If the landlord is not aware of the fact that the tenant is missing, a notice of termination may be sent to the tenant despite his / her absence and no objections to the termination are raised. Subsequent clarification may come too late, as the apartment may, for example, have been vacated by the return of the missing person and have already been rented out again. To avoid this problem, it is advisable to appoint an absentee curator for the missing person.

Continuation of proceedings

As long as the fact of the missing person is not known to the court, ongoing legal proceedings against missing persons can be continued. It can happen that judicial documents are deemed to have been served on deposit even though a person is missing.

In order to avoid negative legal consequences for those absent, you should report to the competent court as soon as possible that one of the parties to the proceedings is considered missing.

Paying Debt

In the event of default in payment obligations, a contract can also be terminated for missing persons. The general interest on arrears (four percent) begin to run when the arrears occur. This also applies in cases of force majeure (e.g. catastrophes). However, higher interest on arrears and collection costs cannot then be claimed.


In order to gain access to the accounts of the missing person and thus possibly continue to meet payment obligations, you need a bank power of attorney or an absence curator must be appointed.

Last updated: February 10, 2021

Responsible for the content: Federal Ministry of Justice