[This is another one of the entries that was lost in the transition]
While there can be a lot of debate about the fate of Ray Gricar, the former district attorney of Centre County, it can be stated beyond question that, at this point of time, he is absolutely alive, legally. Mr. Gricar’s remains have never been found, he was never pronounced dead, and he has never been declared dead by the courts. From a legal standpoint, Mr. Gricar is alive. Reality might differ from legality.
Basically, in what might be a legal fiction, Mr. Gricar is assumed to be alive, but absent, and nobody knows where he is. While his daughter, Lara, is "authorized to take charge of the property" she cannot own it or inherit it. It is for this reason that Mr. Gricar’s pension is untouched and any life insurance has not been claimed.
In late 2005, Lara was named as “trustee” for her father. That basically means that, for many things, she acts on behalf of Mr. Gricar. On top of that, her name was jointly on some, if not all, of his accounts; she would have had access to those prior to his disappearance. Having an account in both names isn’t too unusual. If something should happen to one of the names on the account, the other could access it. I had, since college, a similar relationship with my father (well before he became sick). The idea was, in father’s case, was that if he’d die, I’d be able to pay any bills immediately.2 There would also be a slight inheritance tax savings, as half the money is legally regarded as belonging to the survivor.
Never miss a local story.
Appointing someone, anyone a trustee for a missing person, has some unusual legal effects. The first one deals with when a person can be declared dead:
When a person domiciled in the Commonwealth
disappears and is absent from his place of residence
without being heard of after diligent inquiry, the court of the
county where he last resided, aided by the report of a master
if necessary, upon the petition of any party in interest, and,
if a trustee has been appointed for the absentee, at any
time during the trusteeship, may make a finding and decree
that the absentee is dead and of the date of his death,
provided the notice required by section 5704 (relating to
notice to absentee) has been given to the absentee.
(PA Consolidated Statutes, Section 5701, 1).2
If I understand the statute correctly, any “party in interest,”
one that would inherit for example, could petition the court to
have Mr. Gricar declared dead. Anyone, including Lara
Gricar, could have done from late 2005. She could call up
her attorney today and do it. While the next subsection of the
statute deals with a presumption of absence for seven years,
the courts could declare someone missing who has a trustee
appointed, like Mr. Gricar, well before those seven years have
So, basically, Mr. Gricar’s heirs, or others with an
interest in the estate could have him declared dead at this
point. They have not done so; in not doing so, they have left
unclaimed his rather substantial pension and any life insurance
policies. I don’t really find that too unusual. Tony Gricar has
said that there has been “no real rush” to declare Mr. Gricar
dead, as no body has been found, in what was one of his last
press statement on the case.3 It does make sense if the heirs
are not fairly sure if the possibly legal fiction, that someone is
dead, is a fact.
I found another section of the statute interesting.
Section 5705 states:
The court, on its own motion or upon the application of any
party in interest, may direct the trustee to search for the
absentee in any manner which the court shall deem
appropriate, or may appoint a master, investigator or
appropriate agency to do so. The expenses of such a search
shall be paid out of the property of the absentee. 3
The court could order the trustee to do a search for the missing
person, and possibly, could order the findings of the police
investigation to be revealed in forming a decision. A “party in
interest,” like an heir, could ask the court to do this; the court
can do this on its own, as well. I wonder why no one has
asked. I’ll ask the attorneys out there to chime in on that one.
E-mail J. J. in Phila at email@example.com