Q: My wife has been missing for 25 years would like to have declared dead
A: Unfortunately, this is a matter of fact that must be determined by the court. You should contact an attorney in your area/county/city to determine whether there is a case for a presumption of death.
A: You will need to bring a declaratory judgment action to obtain a court ruling declaring her death. MD Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, § 3-102 requires determination of death by the court:
"If the death of a person or the date of his death is at issue, he is not presumed dead in any proceedings under this subtitle or under Title 13 of the Estates and Trusts Article, merely because he has been absent from his place of residence and not heard about for any stated period of time. The issue shall go to the court as one of fact to be determined upon the evidence. If during his absence the person has been exposed to a specific peril of death, this fact shall be considered by the court.
§ 3-105. Search for absentee
(a) Upon application, the court may direct the guardian to make search for the absentee in any manner the court considers advisable, including one or more of the following methods:
(1) Inserting in one or more suitable periodicals a notice requesting information from any person having knowledge of the absentee's whereabouts;
(2) Notifying officers of justice and public welfare agencies in appropriate locations of the absentee's disappearance; or
(3) Engaging the services of an investigating agency.
Expenses of search
(b) The expenses of the search shall be taxed as costs and paid out of the property of the absentee."
The reference to a "guardian" has to do with the person who petitions to be appointed to safeguard the property of the missing person. That may or may not apply, but as her spouse you may be treated as the guardian. I assume that you filed a missing person's report with the police, and they investigated her disappearance. There is the question, of course, as to the circumstances of her disappearance, and whether there is reason to suspect foul play or whether she may have simply left to live her own life somewhere else. If there was a life insurance policy involved, the investigations conducted, if any, by the insurance company investigator should be obtained.
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