13.10.16

Question:

‘What does Next of Kin actually mean?’

Answer:

This is a great question and we’re really pleased we can clear up some of the misconceptions we often hear, Next of Kin is a common term usually used in medical situations or when a person dies.

In our experience, people often refer to their ‘Next of Kin’ but have very different ideas of what the term actually means.  Some think it is a blood relative whilst others would consider another family member or close friend to be the person they would want to be notified in certain situations, for example if they are admitted to hospital.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes Next of Kin as ‘most closely related’.  But it might surprise you to know that there is no legal definition and any person you nominate as your Next of Kin has absolutely no legal rights or responsibilities.

For some situations, listing a person to be nominated in the event of an emergency is sensible.  Doctors, hospitals and your passport often request this information and you are usually free to pick anyone you feel is most appropriate.

However, where decisions may be required, such as in a serious medical situation or to deal with financial matters, the simple nomination of a named person, often referred to as ‘Next of Kin’, will not be sufficient. If you want to give a person or people the authority to make decisions on your behalf, particularly if you are unable to do so, you will need to put in place Lasting Powers of Attorney.

It’s also really common for people to talk about the rights of the ‘Next of Kin’ after a person has died. As above, the person that is nominated as ‘Next of Kin’ may not have the legal right to make decisions about the estate of the person that has passed away. If the person who died did not leave a valid Will, the Intestacy Rules determine who is entitled to administer the estate and inherit any assets. To find out more about Intestacy Rules the Government have developed a helpful online tool which can be accessed here.

If a person dies leaving a valid Will then what has been set out in the Will determines what can be done with the estate and this overrules any nomination of a ‘Next of Kin’.

If you would like to discuss putting in place Lasting Powers of Attorney please do not hesitate to contact us.

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