''Usually'' the result of NeverFoundTheBody. The family/friends/authorities decide that a missing person is indeed deceased, and life can go on. Often leads to ReportsOfMyDeathWereGreatlyExaggerated. Can also lead to FinallyFoundTheBody

This can happen because the person:
* has been away for a long time (whether on a long journey, stranded, or captured).
* is the victim of a [[VastBureaucracy bureaucratic screwup]].
* has been declared dead due to the nefarious schemes of others.
* has disappeared ''[[FakingTheDead deliberately]]'' to hide.
* has disappeared after some disaster or other great peril.
* has seemingly vanished into thin air with no evidence whatsoever that they're amongst the living.
* has died, and formally it's enough even though [[BackFromTheDead they got better later]] (opposite of the RevivalLoophole).

Note that in the fifth and sixth types of situations, it's likely (and often indeed the case) that these people really are dead.

See also UndeadTaxExemption.
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!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* This happens to [[spoiler:the main cast]] of ''Manga/FairyTail'' when Tenrou Island is attacked by Acnologia. [[spoiler:They turn up alive...but when they do, seven years have passed.]]
* This happens to the entire crew of the ''Macross'' in ''Anime/SuperDimensionFortressMacross'' after the disastrous space fold out to Pluto. After not having any contact with the ship for months, the governments of Earth declared them deceased. This made things a little awkward when they returned, especially since [[spoiler:none of the crew's former nations were willing to accept them back.]]
* ''Manga/CaptiveHearts'': Yoshimi inherited the Kougami Family's estate when the Kougamis were declared dead and he kept it until Suzuka was found alive. [[spoiler:Her parents are eventually revealed to be alive as well.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''Comicbook/GreenArrow'': The origin story since TheSilverAgeOfComicBooks features Oliver Queen becoming stranded on an island & becoming a skilled archer as a means of survival. Originally, Ollie merely fell off a cruise ship; [[CrisisOnInfiniteEarths Post-Crisis]], this was amended to Ollie being drunk at the time; and was later amended to being shot off the ship & becoming an archer to shut down a drug ring on the island.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* ''Film/BatmanBegins'': Popped up, when Bruce Wayne disappears for years in order to train in remote monasteries, etc. When he returns, Alfred mentions that bringing him back from the dead will have some legal implications...
** Namely, one of the executives at Wayne Enterprises had Bruce being LegallyDead so the company would become open capital.
* ''Film/{{Castaway}}'': Happens to Chuck Noland.
* ''[[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057329/ Move Over Darling]]'': "Five years to the day after his wife Ellen (Doris Day) disappeared in the sea after a plane crash, lawyer husband Nicholas Arden (James Garner) has her declared legally dead, remarries and sets off to Monterey with new wife Bianca (Polly Bergen). The same morning, Ellen arrives home after being rescued by the Navy from a desert island and follows to try and prevent the honeymoon developing further." This was likely a remake of...
** ... the 1940 RKO ScrewballComedy ''My Favorite Wife'', in which wife Ellie Arden (Irene Dunne) has been shipwrecked for seven years on a desert island-coincidentally with handsome Stephen Burkett (Randolph Scott)-so husband Nick Arden (CaryGrant) has her declared legally dead, and marries elegant IceQueen Bianca (Gail Patrick). Ellie and Stephen are rescued and return on the very day of the wedding -- but after the ceremony itself. HilarityEnsues. Both films were ultimately based on a poem, "Enoch Arden," by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
* In ''Film/{{Hackers}}'' a competition between Dade and Kate to mess around with Secret Service Special Agent Richard Gill as much as possible is held, and Dade alters records to show that Gill has been legally declared dead.
* In the horror film ''Film/{{Absentia}}'', Tricia's husband is declared legally dead after being missing for seven years. Then he comes back.
* The movie ''Film/DoubleJeopardy'' deals with a man who staged his death AND framed his wife for his murder.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Folklore]]
* ''RobinHood'': Happens in many of his appearances. Usually, his extended absence causes the Sheriff of Nottingham to seize his estate, which is why he takes to the forest.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* ''Literature/TheHobbit'': In the epilogue, Bilbo returns home to discover that he's been declared such by relatives, who are preparing to auction off his house and belongings. He takes it fairly well, all things considered, and manages to get ''most'' of his belongings back.
* ''Literature/TunnelInTheSky'': Rod and Roy are quietly declared dead and mourned in a private ceremony after they're a month late from a scouting mission.
* Played for dark comedy in ''Literature/CatchTwentyTwo''. 'Doc' Daneeka was in the habit of having pilots add his name to their plane's flight roster on occasion, so that he would qualify for flight pay. He never ''really'' was on any of the flights. Then a plane that has him listed on the flight roster crashes into a mountain. 'Doc' is declared legally dead by the Army, and he can't even get anyone to listen when he tries to explain that he's not dead, because as far as the Army is concerned he's dead.
* Inverted with [[Literature/CiaphasCain Commissar Ciaphas Cain]], who has been erroneously declared dead on so many occasions that the military bureaucracy has a standing order to ignore all reports of his death and keep him on the active duty roster. This continued even after his actual death (and burial with full military honors).
* [[Literature/ASeriesOfUnfortunateEvents Lemony Snicket]] apparently was thought to be dead: his obituary was in the paper. While we don't know if this was a nefarious scheme, it probably was, considering the themes of the books.
* In ''[[Literature/HonorHarrington Ashes of Victory]]'', the eponymous character is declared dead after an enemy nation (who had indeed captured her previously) fakes her execution. Upon her return, the situation is milked for [[PlayedForLaughs every last ounce of comedy]] as [[HumbleHero Honor]] tries in vain to get [[OurFounder all of the memorials, statues, and starships named after her]] torn down or renamed.
* In ''Literature/IceStation'', it turns out that Scarecrow has been officially killed in a training accident along with the rest of his unit. It seems that somebody's trying to cover up his mission...
* Michael has [[spoiler:Rosamund]] declare dead in the ''Literature/KnightAndRogueSeries'' so his father will stop trying to have her brought home and she can marry her true love.
* Hotblack Desiato, who's "spending a year dead for tax purposes" in the second ''Literature/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'' book, ''Literature/TheRestaurantAtTheEndOfTheUniverse'', qualifies as a combination of #4 and #7--he's hiding out (from the tax bureau) by being both legally dead and [[OnlyMostlyDead kind of physically dead]] (but able to interact with his environment using psychkinesis), and the plan is to get better later.
* In ''Literature/TheHouseOfTheSpirits'' Uncle Marcos is declared dead after the wreckage of his experimental plane and allegedly some remains are found in the mountains. However, he turns up alive several days later, leading to a bureaucratic headache as his family attempts to have his legal death reversed.
* In ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'' book ''Literature/GhostStory'', we learn [[spoiler:that this has happened to Dresden after he was shot and his body fell into Lake Michigan at the end of Changes]]. Technically speaking he ''is'' dead, they just NeverFoundTheBody. [[spoiler:This is upgraded to OnlyMostlyDead in the ending, when it turns out Mab has had his body preserved and healed and is just waiting for his spirit to come back into it]].
* In ''Literature/FriedGreenTomatoesAtTheWhistleStopCafe'', Frank Bennett simply vanishes from the scene. [[FinallyFoundTheBody His truck turns up later]], revealing the fact that he's been murdered, but the judge declares it an accidental death due to lack of evidence [[spoiler: and the fact that the judge personally hated Frank]].
* In the book ''The Woman in the Wall'', the titular protagonist's father has vanished and been declared legally dead, but it's implied that he's simply hiding in the walls of his workplace in the same way the protagonist does in the walls of her house.
* Aignan, Conson's son, from ''Literature/AVoid'' went missing thirty years before the story in Oxford.
* The ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' city of Ankh-Morpork has a similar ruling, although the consequences are not for the person who died. People who commit murder are hanged. If their victim is only briefly dead, they will only be [[GallowsHumor briefly hanged]].
** Later volumes expanded on the "briefly" part: if the victim lives, but had to be revived by [[MadScientist an Igor]], it still counts as Murder, rather than Attempted Murder.
* ''HarryPotter'': Peter Pettigrew faked his death to escape punishment.
** And, of course, the crux of the first half of the series is that the general wizarding populace assumes this of Voldemort. The main characters, of course, know better, and the Ministry's [[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheOrderOfThePhoenix initial refusal to back off this claim]] causes some ''major problems'' in the second half of the series.
* On ''Series/PersonOfInterest'' a real estate developer went into business with some shady investors. When the market went sour, they decided to kill the man and his family and then force the man's brother-in-law as the executor of the estate to transfer all the properties to them. Their hitman makes it look like the man killed his wife and daughter while sailing on a yacht and then killed himself. The girl's body was not discovered but everyone assumed that it went overboard and sunk in the sea. Two years later all the legal wrangling is over, the girl is legally dead and the bad guys are about to get their money. Then it comes to light that the hitman WouldNotHurtAChild and the girl is still alive. Since this would completely derail their scheme, the bad guys hire a hitman who WouldHurtAChild and send him to kill the girl before the authorities find out about her being still alive.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Arrow}}'': Similarly to ''Smallville'' altering aspects of the origin, this shows changes Green Arrow's origin to feature the Queen family's private yacht being destroyed in stormy weather (with sabotage apparently playing a part, too), but maintains Oliver surviving thanks to a life raft eventually taking him to a secluded island. The show actually shows Oliver having to go to court so a judge can formally reverse his Legally Dead status. His family's lawyers must have had a field day dealing with the legal ramification of having a heir to the Queen family fortune reappear.
* ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6xX_jJnNzc Baby, I'm Back]]'': In 1978, this short-lived sitcom featured Demond Wilson (better known as the second half of the title pair of ''SanfordAndSon'') as a man who abandons his family, and returns after having been declared dead to try to reconcile with wife and children, his efforts being thwarted by his DeadpanSnarker former mother-in-law. It was presumably meant to be a modernized reworking of ''My Favorite Wife''/''Move Over Darling''.
* ''Series/BlakesSeven'': Travis, aided and abetted by Servalan. Given that the reason he needs to resort to this trope is Sevalan herself [[YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness getting him court-martialed and sentenced to death after he screws up one time too many]], this must be one of the strangest PetTheDog moments in television history.
* ''Series/BurnNotice'' has Larry Sizemore, a.k.a. "Dead Larry".
* ''Series/DoctorWho'': The end of the episode "Doomsday" opens with Rose Tyler talking about the day she died, and at the very end of the episode, she is permanently trapped in an alternate universe with her mother, boyfriend and Alternate Universe!father. From the perspective of this universe's government, she has technically disappeared without any trace, and has been declared one of the victims of that day.
* ''Series/{{Haven}}'': In the season 3 finale, The Barn vanishes while Duke Crocker is in it. In the season 4 premiere, he reappears, but finds six months have passed and everyone thought he was dead. It causes a few problems, like him getting arrested and accused of being an impostor.
* ''Series/{{Mash}}'': One fourth season episode involves Hawkeye being mistakenly declared dead due to a paperwork mix-up.
* ''Series/{{Revolution}}'': [[spoiler: Rachel Matheson. [[Recap/RevolutionS1E2ChainedHeat Episode 2]] reveals she had been kept prisoner by Monroe. The [[Recap/RevolutionS1E10NobodysFaultButMine fall finale]] reveals that even Miles, who personally processed her when she turned herself in to the Monroe Militia, assumed that she had since died]].
* An episode of ''Series/NightCourt'' dealt with a soldier who had been declared dead and came home to find out his wife had remarried to a total nerd.
* On ''Series/ThePretender'', this is a big part of Mr. Lyle's backstory. He [[spoiler: killed his best friend and chopped his head off, then left the body in the bed of his abusive father's pickup truck. Even though the authorities could not positively ID the body, it was assumed to be him. His father was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, while his mother went insane from the ordeal.]]
* ''Series/{{Rome}}'': Lucius Vorenus's wife believes him dead after ten years campaigning with Caesar.
* ''Series/{{Smallville}}'': Keeps Green Arrow's origin mostly intact, except instead of falling off a cruise ship, Ollie's yacht was attacked by a group of pirates and he escaped by activating a life raft before washing ashore on a nearby island.
* ''Series/TheAdventuresOfSuperman'': Attempted in one episode of the old TV show. A wanted criminal seals himself in a huge lead-lined metal room for seven years so that he can be declared legally dead and emerge a free man. He has a clock inside that keeps time from a radio signal from a nearby military base. Superman gets the authorities to speed the clock up by a tiny bit, so when he finally emerges it turns out he's 10 minutes too early.
* ''The Trouble With Larry'': Short-lived 1993 sitcom wherein Larry (Bronson Pinchot post-''Perfect Strangers'') had been abducted and presumed eaten by apes 10 years previously; his wife has since remarried and had a son, then Larry shows up ready to retake his place as head of the family.
* ''Series/BabylonFive'': Captain Sheridan was presumed to have died on Z'Ha'Dum at the end of the third season, a presumption reinforced somewhat by the fact that [[AmbiguousSituation he most likely did do just that]]. He is brought back thanks to the efforts of a SufficientlyAdvancedAlien, and returns to rally the League races against the Shadows [[spoiler: and Vorlons]]. Bit of a downplayed example, as the fourth season reveals that nobody on Earth ever heard about his death anyways, [[PoliceState thanks to a government-enforced communications blackout.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Game]]
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXII''
** Dalmascan Captain Basch is framed for regicide by the invading Archadian conspirators --including his own twin brother, who committed the murder-- and the population of Dalmasca is assured that the traitor was captured and executed. Only the first part was true, however, and he lives to help the Princess reclaim her throne.
** In fact, Basch's "LegallyDead" status is deliberately exploited by the party in order to draw [[LaResistance Marquis Ondore's]] attention, at which point they send out [[IdiotHero Vaan]] to claim that [[MemeticMutation "[He is] Captain Basch!"]]
** By the end of the game, [[spoiler:since Basch is ''still'' legally declared dead by Dalmasca, he uses this chance to take up the guise and identity of Judge Magister Gabranth in his brother's name, in order to protect the young emperor Larsa (and, by extension, the fragile peace between Dalmasca, Rozarria, and Archades)]].
* Subverted in ''VisualNovel/ApolloJusticeAceAttorney''. It appears that [[spoiler:Zak Gramarye]] merely disappeared to remove his partner from suspicion. The rights to the Gramarye magic act would automatically transfer to him in seven years according to this trope. The subversion comes when he turns out to be [[spoiler:Shadi Engimar, the murder victim in the first case]].
* In ''VideoGame/WingCommander Prophecy'', Commodore Blair is lost when the Nephilim wormhole gate he's seeking to shut down collapses, leaving his fate uncertain. In the sequel ''Secret Ops'', background fiction for the game says that Blair was declared legally dead.
* Lightning in ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII-2'' Everyone thinks she is dead but Serah.
* At the beginning of ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' [[PlayerCharacter Commander Shepard]] has the ''[[CoolStarship Normandy]]'' blown out from under him/her, suffers a suit puncture and asphyxiates, [[RasputinianDeath then partially burns up on reentry into a planet's atmosphere and crashes into its surface]]. After Cerberus [[WeCanRebuildHim revives him/her]] two years later, on his/her first trip to the Citadel s/he discovers that the Systems Alliance and Citadel Council have, unsurprisingly, declared him/her KIA in the interim, and Shepard has to talk to a C-Sec officer to get his/her [=IDs=] reactivated. This also leads to some FunnyMoments when the Citadel advertising can't quite figure out what to do with an undead Spectre.
-->'''Technician:''' Sorry about this, sir/ma'am. Our system seems to think that you're, ah, dead.
-->'''Shepard:''' I was {{only mostly dead}}. Try finding ''that'' option on government paperwork.
* The basis of the first quest in ''VideoGame/EscapeFromMonkeyIsland'', due to Guybrush and governor Elaine spending too long on their honeymoon (combined with their pirate constituency's short attention span).
-->'''Elaine''': I'm going down to city hall to see about getting declared un-dead.
-->'''Guybrush''': Won't that make you a flesh-eating zombie?
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* ''WebAnimation/ZeroPunctuation'''s review for Peggle, regarding its addictiveness, Yahtzee claims that he started playing around noon and emerged sometime later to find that the authorities had declared him LegallyDead.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* ''Webcomic/TowerOfGod'': Through a rather convoluted plan of Yu Han-Sung's, [[spoiler: 25th Baam]] has been declared as deceased during a test. Matter of fact is that [[spoiler:He was ambushed by Rachel and dropped down the drain, literally]].
* ''Webcomic/GirlGenius''
** While DeathIsCheap isn't quite in effect, resurrection is possible. So the noble families have a rule in place that if you die, you're out of the line of succession, whether you get zapped back or not. Of course, every so often a blue-blood gets resurrected and hopes no one finds out, but the local ReasonableAuthorityFigure[=/=]EvilOverlord always does, and quietly blackmails them with it.
** Speaking of which, said EvilOverlord is the result of all three sons of the Wulfenbach family dying in a lab accident, getting stitched back together, and reanimated, which means he's probably not even human in a legal sense, and definitely isn't allowed to rule. He also has the most guns.
** The leader of an enemy army gets killed and then reanimated to be brought back to life by Klaus. For his safety, his name was released as one of the dead. He's initially annoyed--none of his RichBitch friends will be willing to communicate with him, his wife will be even worse, and and his lands will go to his insufferable nephew--until he has an epiphany and realizes that he hated all of them anyway.
--->'''Selinkov:''' Say--can I get a brass plate that says "Reanimated Abomination of Science" ''bolted'' to my forehead?\\
'''Dr. Sun:''' Er, perhaps?

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Websites]]
* FanFictionDotNet: Often a SubvertedTrope on the Internet, where a writer who has returned from a long hiatus will remark that they're not dead, as evidenced by the update. This is only slightly justified, as most of these people post under a pseudonym and are unknown outside the Internet, so if ScheduleSlip means they go a long time without posting anything, then for all their readers know, they could have died in the interim. Played straight in a couple of cases, though the only ones that have been verified were in those where a relative verified things, and most were in short order.

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'': Aang disappeared for 100 years while he was stuck in an iceberg, and was generally thought to be dead. He wasn't exactly stranded or captured, but he was stuck...
* ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'': Peter was declared legally dead when he and the guys were lost at sea, and Lois married Brian in order to have a breadwinner in the house.
** In another episode, Peter declared himself dead to get out of paying a hospital bill. The Grim Reaper tried to take him away.
* ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'': An Unfrozen man from 3 years in the past discovered his wife had remarried and had two sons... Except the sons were too old to have been the children of her new husband. (8 and 13 to be exact)
* Professor Farnsworth in ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}}'', when his... uh, ''descendant'' Cubert bring up that he was declared legally dead by some bizarre circumstances. The Professor immediately comes back with, "You take one nap in a ditch and they start declaring you this and that!" It comes back to bite him, though.
* ''WesternAnimation/WildWestCOWBoysOfMooMesa'': Seven years after Colonel Cudster put his daughter in charge of his gold mine and left Cowtown to look for more gold, Mayor Bulloney tried to invoke an old law to get the Colonel declared dead and seize the mine.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
* Declaring someone dead to steal that person's property is a more common practice than India wants to admit.
** One Ig Nobel Prize went to the founder of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_of_Dead_People The Uttar Pradesh Association of Dead People]], which represents the masses of Indian people who have been victims of this trope in RealLife.
* [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Darwin_disappearance_case John Darwin]] went out in a canoe and never returned. His wife had him declared legally dead to claim his life insurance. Until he turned up again, and the police found evidence he'd had a passport in a fake name. Also a subversion of EasyAmnesia, which he claimed to have when he first reappeared.
* TruthInTelevision: Bodies that were never found after earthquakes, building collapses, fires, wars, boat sinkings, and so on are often declared dead fairly soon after their disappearance due to "imminent peril" clauses in laws that deal with Death In Absentia.
* "Death In Absentia", "Declared Dead", "Declared Deceased", "Presumed Deceased" and "Legally Dead" are all legal terms for someone who has not been seen or heard from for some time. It allows for wills to be read, spouses to be declared widowed, and life to go on. For someone to be declared this (at least in the US and Canada) is no small matter: those who seek to declare someone dead have to make a concerted effort to find the person, there has to be '''''no''''' evidence that the person being declared dead is still alive, and ''usually'' the last known contact has to be at least seven years prior. Sometimes the waiting period is waived (see above in Type 5), but just as often the search goes on longer (for example, friends and family of [[Music/ManicStreetPreachers Richey James Edwards]] searched for nearly twice as long as required).
* Jimmy Hoffa, Judge Joseph Force Crater, Ray Gricar, etc.
[[/folder]]

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