While some countries such as the US have a legal definition of Next of Kin “(NoK)”, other countries such as the UK and Australia do not. However there are certain circumstances which provide a general criteria of what can be defined as next of kin.

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What is Next of Kin?

Commonly, next of kin are either the spouse, de facto partner or parents of a person. A de facto relationship is defined under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) as two adult persons living together as a couple who are not married or related by family. If none of these describe your relationship with the person you wish to appoint as your next of kin then check here for further detail.

In the eyes of the law a person does not automatically assume any responsibility when they are appointed as next of kin. Despite having no responsibility in the eyes of the law, a next of kin does assume some responsibility in that they are required to provide personal details of the deceased.

Same-sex partners

Partners of same-sex relationships can be NoK. However a person in a same-sex relationship may have their wishes ignored by the family if their partner dies without leaving a will. Should this be the case, the partner must establish that a de facto relationship existed between them. This is important for the same-sex partner wishing to make decisions or organising funeral arrangements for their partner.

To avoid these issues it would be especially important for people in same-sex relationships to make their wishes crystal clear in their will. However even then the executor is not bound to follow the will.

Purpose of listing Next of Kin

Listing a person as next of kin means that in situations where an accident or serious incident has taken place, they will be the first to be notified. It is for this reason that employers, insurance companies, education providers ask for you to nominate a person as your next of kin.

What if you do not have a Next of Kin?

While de facto partners are recognised by law they are not airtight. Should a person in a de facto relationship be placed in hospital for whatever reason, and their significant other is not recognised as an emergency contact, the hospital may not consider the non-injured partner as next of kin and possibly not allow them to visit the hospital bed.

Should a person die and no next of kin can be found, depending on their circumstances and location of their death, then relevant action would need to be taken accordingly. For example should the person die in a hospital and fail to arrange for a next of kin to arrange the funeral and expenses, 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. This is also known as a Pauper’s Funeral. 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.