Declaring someone dead

I’m sorry if this is insensitive, but I would like to know the answer. I heard that the Social Security office is going to expedite survivor benefits for the families of those killed in the terrorist attacks. Which is very considerate of them, and quite a good idea. The only thing is, doesn’t it take seven years to declare someone dead? Can a judge hurry that up if there’s reasonable evidence that the person was in the WTC?

Seven years seems like an awfully long time. From my inderstandign, you can actually (with professional help) declare someone dead rather quickly.

I had the odd thought:

What if someone who worked at either tower had wanted to drop out of society, run out on his family, or something like that. He just never could get the courage up to do it. Then last Tuesday on his way to work, he stopped at the McDonalds on Wall Street for an Egg McMuffin. He hears about (or maybe just hears) the attacks on the WTC. When they collapse, he figures that nobody could confirm or deny whether he was in his office. He could very well be dead. He just leaves town with the cash he had on hand and starts a new life.

How many of the missing might be like this guy, instead of unfortunate victims?

Not such an odd thought - my husband and I were commenting on the same thing. I wonder how many people really feel the need to disappear that completely?

As for the seven years - I believe that’s only if someone disappears without any trace… for example, my grandmother had a brother who was somewhat mentally disabled, but he did have a job. One day, his boss came to my grandmother’s to find out why Joe didn’t come to work. He had, in fact, left for work that morning, and it was the last time my grandmother saw him. He never turned up, the police never came up with an answer, and after seven years, he was declared dead. That was over 50 years ago.

It’s my understanding that getting the paperwork and other such red tape handled in a known death is rather time-consuming. I believe what they’re doing is streamlining that process for the survivors in this case.

What FairyChatMom said about the missing. If there is indeed someone who took a powder with the assumption that everyone will simply assume he’s dead, I am guessing HIS family might have to wait the seven years. No body to ID, therefore not a known death.

I’m sure that many of the people who died in the WTC will never be found, so there will be no proof that they are dead. I think that there is a strong presumption that they are dead, although it’s possible that some of them may just have dropped out of sight, as some have suggested. I don’t know what the law is, but I would think in a situation like this they would have to declare the missing people dead after a reasonably short time.