Recognition of a citizen as missing or dead in the Republic of Armenia

The right to declare a citizen missing or dead is enshrined in the Civil Code of the Republic of Armenia. This legal instrument has a long history of application and can often have a significant impact on the set of rights and obligations of some citizens.

The necessity to recognize a citizen as absent may arise when it is necessary to organize the management of the property of a citizen who has been absent for a long time, register the dissolution of marriage, obtain citizenship for an underage child, sell joint property, register the inheritance of the property left by him, as well as in a number of other life situations, in which the long absence of a citizen may cause the need to implement legally significant actions.

The procedure of declaring a citizen as missing or dead in the courts of the Republic of Armenia

Article 44 of RA Civil Code states that the court upon the application of interested persons has the right to recognize a citizen as missing if during one year at the place of his/her residence there is no information about his/her whereabouts.

If it is impossible to determine the day of receipt of the last information about the missing person, the period of his absence is calculated from the first day of the month following the month in which the last information about him was received. If it is impossible to determine the month, the term shall be calculated from the first of January of the following year.    

Another norm enshrined in Article 47 of the RA Civil Code states that a citizen can be declared dead by the court, if during the last three years there is no information about the location of the citizen at his place of residence. If he was missing under circumstances which threatened to cause death or give reason to believe that his death was caused by an accident, a citizen can be declared dead within six months from the date of receiving the last information about his whereabouts.

The law also establishes a different deadline, after the expiration of which the person concerned may apply with a statement to declare a citizen dead. For example, a serviceman who was missing and missing in action cannot be declared dead earlier than two years after the end of the military actions.

Recognition as missing or dead in Armenia is carried out only by courts of general jurisdiction. Such cases are examined through special proceedings. An application for recognition as missing or dead shall be submitted to the court at the applicant’s place of residence or at the last known place of residence of the missing person.

The application should meet certain procedural requirements, stipulated by the RA Civil Procedure Code. The application should indicate the legal consequences expected for the applicant in case his/her application is satisfied, the circumstances and facts which prove the missing person, the circumstances proving the endangerment of his/her life, or other facts which allow to assume that his/her death could be the result of a certain accident. In addition, a sample receipt of payment of state duty is attached to the application. Compliance with these requirements is mandatory for the applicant, because otherwise the court may not accept the case for its consideration and return it.

It is important to remember that in the application must be as clear and correctly set out the purpose for which the application is filed, as well as the legal benefit of the applicant, which will be derived as a result of the satisfaction of the application filed by them. Thus, if the third person files an application with the reference to the fact that the recognition of the missing person is necessary to the spouse of the missing person in order to further register the dissolution of the marriage, the court will not consider the case on the merits, since as a general rule, the application must be filed by the beneficiary. To apply to the court on behalf of a third party with a request to recognize a citizen as dead or missing can only legal representatives of the person (parent of a minor, an adoptive parent, guardian of an incapacitated person, etc.). On the basis of a power of attorney only lawyers licensed in the Republic of Armenia may act on behalf of the applicant.

If the judge accepts the case, then his further actions will be aimed at finding the missing person and obtaining information confirming the applicant’s allegations. This is done by making a request to the local government body at the missing person’s place of residence and a request to the missing person’s last place of employment. In addition, the court orders the publication of an announcement in the print media about the initiation of court proceedings to declare a citizen missing or dead. The costs of publishing the announcement in the media are borne by the applicant.

After performing the above actions, the judge may propose to the guardianship authorities the appointment of a guardian in order to preserve the property of the absent citizen.

As part of the court hearing, the judge will consider the grounds and evidence presented by the petitioner and evaluate the validity of the petition. In some cases, it may be necessary to present additional evidence.

If as a result of all the searches the court fails to find reliable information about the whereabouts of the absent person within 1 year or within 3 years, the judge makes a decision to declare the person missing or dead (depending on the request). At the same time, it should be noted that following the recognition of a citizen as missing, the guardianship authority at the location of the property of the missing person appoints a guardian to protect that property.

When a citizen is recognized as dead, the relevant bodies of the Civil Registry of the Republic of Armenia make a record on the death of a citizen, as a result of which the applicant is issued a death certificate.

Appointment of a trustee in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Armenia

The trustee of the property of the missing person shall be appointed on the basis of the decision of the trusteeship and guardianship authority under the municipal body. The personality of the trustee has a special role, as he is vested with exceptional powers, which require a high level of trust in his person. The manager is obliged to dispose of the property of the trustee in such a way that his actions do not conflict with the interests of the absentee. At the expense of the absent person’s property, the manager pays his debts, manages and disposes of the property in his interests, as well as provides maintenance for the absent person’s dependents.

As a general rule, the RA Civil Code establishes certain criteria that the manager must meet: he must have the status of a private entrepreneur or be registered as a commercial organization. However, persons who do not have the status of a PE, i.e. any physical persons, can be appointed as administrators of the estates of the missing persons.

The guardianship and custody body may, if necessary, even before the expiration of a year from the date of receipt of the last information about the place of residence of the absent citizen on the basis of a court decision appoint a manager of his property.

If, after three years from the day of the appointment of the manager, the court decision to declare a person missing has not been annulled, and there has been no appeal to a court to declare a citizen dead, the guardianship and custody agency is obliged to appeal to a court with a statement to declare a citizen dead.

Return of the missing citizen or the deceased

In some cases, citizens who have been missing for a long time, as well as citizens recognized as dead by the court, are found, or about their whereabouts receive certain information. In this situation, the returning person’s rights are rehabilitated and the citizen is given the right to demand the return of the alienated property. The court, upon the person’s application, reverses the earlier decision, thereby eliminating the guardianship that had been established over the person’s property. In addition, the earlier death record is invalidated.

Regardless of the time of his or her appearance, a citizen may demand from each person the return of the surviving property, which passed to that person without compensation after the declaration of death. It should be taken into account that the claim for recovery of money and bearer securities cannot be brought against bona fide purchasers in any case.

Persons who acquired the property of a citizen declared dead under compensatory transactions are obliged to return this property to him, if it is proved that when acquiring the property they knew that the citizen declared dead was alive. If it is impossible to return such property in kind, its value is compensated.

If the property of a citizen declared deceased has passed to the municipality by the right of inheritance and has been realized in compliance with the conditions stipulated by the Armenian legislation, then after the cancellation of the decision on declaring a citizen deceased, the sum of proceeds from the realization of the property is returned to him.