Personal Injury Claim Lawyers

What is Next of Kin?

A Next of Kin is a common term which usually refers to a person’s closest relative.

The term has a lot of confusion surrounding it, as it’s generally thought to hold more legal standing than it does. It is commonly believed that a person’s Next of Kin automatically takes on legal rights and responsibilities on their behalf, but this is not the case. The only situation where someone’s Next of Kin automatically has the right to make decisions on their behalf is when the person is under the age of 18 and their Next of Kin is their parent or legal guardian.

Next of Kin Meaning UK

In general, what defines the term ‘Next of Kin’ may vary depending on the context. Typically, the closest living relative is determined based on a person’s blood relationship.

You can nominate someone to be your Next of Kin, but this isn’t a legally binding nomination. There is no Next of Kin status determined in UK law, and the circumstances for determining the Next of Kin and what their decision-making and inheritance rights are can vary by jurisdiction. Often, the Next of Kin is a spouse or the person’s children. The Next of Kin will likely be the person who visits you in hospital or is informed that you have died.

Who is My Next of Kin UK?

Next of Kin has no real legal definition and the term is commonly used in place of ‘emergency contact’. For example, when going into hospital you may be asked to name a Next of Kin, but you can choose whoever you want - you have no legal obligation to put a blood relative. The order of priority for Next of Kin usually goes: Spouse, Adult Children, Parents, then Siblings. Being nominated as Next of Kin does not give you any particular decision-making power for the person. This can only come from a legally prepared and properly registered Lasting Power of Attorney.

If a person dies without leaving a Will, then their estate will pass under the rules of Intestacy. These rules won’t necessarily include the person’s chosen Next of Kin. Notably, if you are not married to your partner then they are not legally entitled to act as your Next of Kin once you have died. If you are married, then your spouse is typically your Next of Kin to deal with your affairs. This is the case even if you are separated from your spouse, but not yet legally divorced. If you are going through a divorce, it is therefore essential to make a Will that ensures your soon-to-be ex-spouse is not able to act as your Next of Kin, should you die before your divorce is finalised.

How Do I Change My Next of Kin?

You may not have a straightforward relationship with close family members. In this case, you may not want the people who would traditionally be your Next of Kin actually at your side in hospital, or taking charge of your estate. You may also prefer that an unmarried partner takes on this role, rather than a parent or sibling.

The simple way to prepare for this is by putting legal documentation in place: specifically a Lasting Power of Attorney and a Will. These documents allow you to name specific people to manage your affairs on your behalf and ensure that your wishes are followed.

Next of Kin After a Death

If a person were to die without leaving a valid Will, it may be necessary to determine their Next of Kin. When there are no named executors, the Next of Kin is typically responsible for registering the death, organising the funeral, and applying for a Grant of Administration in order to be able to administer the estate.

In these circumstances, the Next of Kin is usually determined by the intestacy laws, identifying the individual legally entitled to inherit the majority of the person’s estate. In these situations, unmarried partners and step-children (unless legally adopted) are not eligible to act as Next of Kin.