You have probably heard the term next of kin, but what does it mean? According to the dictionary or Wikipedia, it means “a person’s closest living relative(s)”. However, in legal terms, it can mean different people in different situations. There is no legal definition for “next of kin”.
You may be able to identify who you would consider to be your next of kin. You would list that person as your emergency contact if asked to do so by a doctor, employer or your child’s school.
Who you would choose to appoint only really becomes important if you lose mental capacity or when you die.
If you lose mental capacity, the Mental Health Act 1983 contains a list of persons (family members), and the specific order that the authorities should follow when contacting your family to notify them that you have been sectioned or found wandering the streets with total memory loss.
If you die without a Will, the Administration of Estates Act 1925 lists your ‘statutory next of kin’, these people will inherit your estate, whether you consider them to be your next of kin or not. A person who doesn’t feature on the list, will not be entitled to inherit anything even though you considered that person to be your next of kin.
When you die, there is no restriction on who can register your death. If you have a Will your executors have the legal right to arrange the funeral, but often a funeral is arranged by whoever wants to or whoever is first at hand.
The absence of a clear legal definition of “next of kin” means that decisions over who plans a funeral, who can authorise medical intervention, or who will be the ‘first to be notified’ can cause a family row.
A legal dispute is never easy, but family disputes that arise in these situations can be particularly distressing.
By taking steps to address the legal issue of who does what if you lose mental capacity or on your death will avoid disputes of this nature.
- Make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
You can nominate someone to take charge if you lose mental capacity. There are two types of LPA. The Property and Financial Affairs LPA gives your attorneys control of your bank accounts and investments, and, if necessary, the ability to sell your house. The Health and Welfare LPA allows attorneys to decide what treatment you receive (or not) should you fall ill.
- Make a Will
A carefully drafted Will sets out your wishes.
To discuss your concerns further, or arrange to make a Will or arrange to appoint an attorney in an LPA contact firstname.lastname@example.org