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“Is Faking Your Death Illegal?” Maybe.

— January 15, 2015

Recently, a Legal Reader reader wrote to us and asked, “Is it illegal to fake one’s death?”  That’s a great question, and I’ve actually wondered about it myself.  Here, I’ll explain what I learned about faking one’s death after a bit of research.

Short Answer: No. Faking one’s death (pseudocide) is not illegal.

Longer Answer:Pseudocide itself isn’t a crime – grown-ups in America are free to run away, ‘go missing,’ and abandon their lives as they see fit.  However, in the process of carrying out a convincing pseudocide, you’re just about guaranteed to break a couple laws.

First, some obvious legal issues with faking one’s death: while pretending to be dead, you can’t abandon your children, skip out on rent, quit paying child support, stop making car payments, etc., etc., etc.  If you were really dead, skipping out on rent or child support payments wouldn’t be a crime – but since you’re still alive, and (say) just hanging out in the woods two towns over, it’s still illegal to stop those payments.

Next, if you have life insurance, faking your death might mean you’re stealing life insurance, which again, is illegal.  And, if there was a police report signed by a loved one confirming you’d died, the loved one would have committed fraud.

According to an interview James Quiggle, director of communications for Coalition Against Insurance Fraud (DC), gave, while pretending to be dead, “You’re also avoiding a large variety of taxes, and defrauding lenders of your home and car. Then when you resurface with a new identity, you’re defrauding every government agency that processes your new identity — and old identity. And you’re defrauding new lenders if you buy a house or car under your new identity.”

If none of these laws (and a few others, I’m sure) are broken, faking one’s death isn’t illegal.  It’s just hard to get away with it without breaking a few laws, and honestly, if not to avoid payments or collect insurance money, what’s the point of faking your death? Well, I suppose that’s up to you.

If you have any questions about the legality of faking your death, please write!  Thanks for reading.

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