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What and Who is a ‘Next of Kin’?

5 February 2021

Poole Alcock

The Wills and Probate team at Poole Alcock often speak to people who have questions about whether they are ‘Next of Kin’ for someone who has recently died. But the definition and use of ‘Next of Kin’ might not be quite what you think…

What does Next of Kin mean?

A Next of Kin refers to a person’s closest living blood relative or closest relationship. In many cases this is a spouse (i.e someone related by marriage) or the person’s children. Often this is someone who visits you in hospital or the person who is informed when you have died.

You can  nominate someone to be your Next of Kin –  but, strictly speaking, this has no legal standing.

There is no Next of Kin status determined in UK law and the specifics of determining Next of Kin and inheritance vary by jurisdiction.

Who has legal standing?

Identifying a Next of Kin is less important, legally, if the person who has died left a Will or was married.  A legally and professionally executed Will covering inherited property takes precedence over Next of Kin rights.  It is important to note that it is the Executor appointed under the Will that has the legal right to distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the Will.

If a person dies without leaving a Will then their estate will pass under the rules of Intestacy. These rules may not include the person’s chosen Next of Kin.

 Who else may be involved?

Funeral wishes are not legally binding, but an executor or Next of Kin (if agreed with the funeral directors) will have a duty to carry out the wishes of the deceased.  Funeral costs are recovered from the deceased’s estate. Whilst the Next of Kin may make arrangements for a funeral, it is the Executor of the Will that has the legal authority to deal with the funeral and the estate generally.It is the provisions of a legal Will that determines who receives the estate and not the Next of Kin.

Funds from life insurance policies and retirement accounts go to designated beneficiaries – regardless of the Next of Kin relationship.

Next of Kin for someone alive

We know that a Next of Kin might need to make medical decisions whilst a person is in hospital, and often the hospital will ask a patient who this is when they are admitted. However, it is always recommended that a Lasting Power of Attorney be in place – being nominated as Next of Kin doesn’t give you any particular decision making power for the person. This can only come from a legally prepared and properly registered Lasting Power of Attorney (link to the LPA page).

What do I do?

If you believe you are someone’s Next of Kin, but want to have more information about whether you have legal standing in dealing with their affairs, contact Poole Alcock for a free, no obligation consultation with one of our friendly and expert solicitors in this field by calling 01270 613939 or complete a contact form here and we will contact you back.






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