The term ‘next of kin’ refers to a person’s closest living blood relative. This term is often used on legal documents such as liability waivers and wills. A person’s next of kin is the person who will be notified if anything unexpected happens, and will have certain responsibilities.

While some countries such as the US have a legal definition of Next of Kin (NoK), other countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia do not. However, it’s still a commonly used term with legal ramifications.

Purpose

Listing a person as next of kin means that they will be notified first when a serious incident happens. This is why employers, insurance companies, education providers ask you to nominate someone as your next of kin.

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Who can be Next of Kin?

Commonly, it’s 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 without marriage or family relations.

A person does not automatically assume legal responsibility when appointed as next of kin. Despite having no legal responsibility, a person’s next of kin does assume some responsibility. This is because they need to provide personal details of the deceased to a hospital or coroner.

Same-sex partners

Partners in a same-sex relationships can be next of kin. Next of kin requirements are the same for same sex couples as they are for heterosexual couples. A spouse will be assumed to be next of kin, but they will have to meet certain requirements if they are de facto.

What if you don’t have a next of kin?

If someone dies without a next of kin, 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.