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.
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.
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.
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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