What happens to a missing person's property in Tennessee if they go missing?

Posted on Jul 15 2013 9:39PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

T.C.A. § 30-3-104 provides a specific procedure for the appointment of a receivership for an individual who has gone missing from their place of residence.  Specifically, T.C.A. § 30-3-104(a) provides as follows:


(a) When a person domiciled in this state and having an interest in any form of property disappears and is absent from the person's place of residence without being heard of after diligent inquiry, upon application for a finding of such disappearance and absence and of the necessity for the appointment of a receiver to the chancery court of the county of the absentee's domicile by any person who would have an interest in the property were the absentee deceased or by an insurer or surety or creditor of such absentee, after notice as provided in § 30-3-106 and upon good cause being shown, the court may find that the person was last heard of as of a date certain and may appoint a receiver to take charge of the person's estate. The absentee shall be made a party to the proceeding, and any other person who would have an interest in the property were the absentee deceased, upon direction by the court, may be made party to the proceeding.


Essentially, this statute provides a procedure for interested individuals to pursue a receivership for someone’s property if they are missing.  Interested individuals who can pursue such a receivership include someone who would have an interest in the property if the person was deceased (a beneficiary under a will or pursuant to intestate succession).  Another category of interested parties would be an insurer or creditor of the missing party.  Under this statute the interested party can request the court to appoint a receivership to take care of the estate.  Essentially, the receiver controls and manages the estate.  T.C.A. § 30-3-104(b) provides as follows:


(b) The receiver, upon giving bond to be fixed in amount and with surety to be approved by the court, and upon such conditions as will insure the conservation of such property, shall, under the direction of the court, administer the property as an equity receivership with power:

(1) To take possession of all property of the absentee wherever situated;

(2) To collect all debts due the absentee;

(3) To bring and defend suits;

(4) To pay insurance premiums;

(5) With the approval of the court in each case, to pay all debts due by the absentee; and

(6) To pay over the proceeds of such part or all of the property, or the income thereof, as may be necessary for the maintenance and support of the absentee's dependents, and if the personal property of the absentee be not sufficient to pay all of the absentee's debt and to provide for the maintenance and support of the absentee's dependents, the receiver may apply to the court for an order to sell or mortgage so much of the real estate as may be necessary therefor, the sale or mortgage to be reported to, approved and confirmed by the court and the receiver to be ordered to make a deed conveying or mortgaging the real property to the purchaser or lender upon the purchaser or lender complying with the terms of sale or mortgage.


Obviously, this situation is rare but it does occur.  This allows creditors and other interested parties to recover against someone’s property if a person goes missing.


Under T.C.A. § 30-3-107 the court upon application can direct the receiver to make a search for the missing individual as follows:


(a) The court, upon application, may direct the receiver to make search for the absentee in any manner which the court may deem advisable, including any or all of the following methods:

(1) By inserting in one or more suitable periodicals a notice requesting information from any person having knowledge of the absentee's whereabouts;

(2) By notifying officers of justice and public welfare agencies in appropriate locations of the absentee's disappearance; or

(3) By engaging the services of an investigation agency.

(b) The expenses of such search and of the notices provided for in § 30-3-106 shall be taxed as costs and paid out of the property of the absentee.


Under T.C.A. § 30-3-108 the court can terminate the receivership and convert and certify it to the probate court for administration if there is satisfactory evidence of actual death.  Additionally, once a person is missing for seven years the court can make a determination of death under the statute and then certify the case to probate court for administration of the estate, if necessary.  Under T.C.A. § 30-3-109 the absent individual cannot make a petition to recover any portion of their property after a final judgment is made under T.C.A. § 30-3-108. 


This is a somewhat quirky area of the law that does not come up very often.  However, if there is a missing person in Tennessee there are legal procedures to follow to take care of their affairs while missing.  Further, after seven years, the court can make a determination that they are deceased and then proceed with normal probate procedures if necessary.


Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Wills and Estates blog.

TAGS: Receivership - Missing Person
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. Contact Jason at 615-540-1004 or jlee@burrowlee.com for an initial consultation on wills estate planning and probate issues.

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Tennessee Wills and Estates Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
611 Commerce Street, Suite 2603
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com