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What Does It Mean to Be a Person’s Next of Kin? (2020 Update)

What Does It Mean to Be a Person’s Next of Kin? (2020 Update)

A next of kin is a person's closest living blood relative. Find out what it means and what a next of kin's obligations are if something unexpected happens.

9th January 2020
The term ‘next of kin’ refers to a person’s spouse, de facto partner or closest living blood relative. This term is often used on legal documents such as liability waivers and wills. A person’s next of kin will be notified if anything unexpected happens (unless alternate emergency contact information is provided). Where a deceased person has failed to make a will, their next of kin will need to administer their estate.While some countries such as the United States have legally defined Next of Kin (NoK), other countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia have not. Despite this, it’s still a commonly used term that does carry some legal weight.

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There are multiple situations where a next of kin may need to make an important decision. Often, your next of kin will be the first to be notified if something happens to you (unless you list a different emergency contact).If someone dies without having left a valid will (intestate), the next of kin will first need to be identified. After this, they will need to arrange the funeral and determine what happens to the body. If no next of kin can be located, the State will need to make these arrangements. Where a will has been made, the terms of the will are enforced.

Who is Next of Kin?

A person’s next of kin is their closest living blood relative, including parents, children, Aunts and Uncles, grandparents and cousins. However, this also includes spouses and de facto partners – who are first in line to be notified if anything happens.Despite having no strict legal responsibility, a person’s next of kin does assume some responsibility when certain situations arise.ExampleYour great-Uncle has recently passed away, and had no written will at the time of his death. Your Uncle never married or had children, and all his siblings and parents have also passed away. After being identified as his closest living relative, you receive a call from the hospital notifying you of his death. You are also in charge of organising his funeral and arranging his burial.

What if you don’t have a next of kin?

If someone dies without a spouse, partner or living relative, action will be taken depending on the circumstances of death. For example when someone dies in a hospital without a next of kin, the hospital will assume responsibility and make arrangements through a government contractor.If a person dies at home without money or assets then the police will classify the person as a Deceased Destitute Person and make arrangements for the burial or cremation. Alternatively, if a person dies at home and leaves money or assets behind, without any next of kin then the funeral and other expenses will be derived from the deceased’s estate.

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Nina Marie Bishay

Nina is a Paralegal working in our content team, which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With a passion for copyright law, her research focuses on small businesses, and how they can navigate convoluted legal procedures.