How to become a next of kin in Australia

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Deciding who the next of kin is when an individual passes away is important due to the various decisions having to be made, in addition to concepts such as inheritance and the responsibilities attached. The next of kin is often decided by the loved one who passes through a certain Last Will & Testament, outlining certain clauses she or he may now take responsibility for. Unless stated in the Last Will & Testament, there is a specific hierarchy on who becomes next of kin. Read on to find out more about what is next of kin?

What exactly is a next of kin in Australia?  

A ‘next of kin’ is an individual who is the closest living relative to someone, through various factors such as blood, marriage, or even the relationship attained. This is often physically written down in legal documents for various reasons, such as to decide on who to contact in case of an emergency. The next of kin generally must be above 18 years of age in order to obtain legal assets, or else handed over to the nearest eligible individual. 

What is the next of kin hierarchy?

When deciding on who becomes the next of kin it is generally considered the person who is the closest blood relative, however, this is not a requirement in Australian legislation. Spouses or partners are often contacted first in case of an emergency, then followed by whoever sits below in the hierarchy.

The hierarchy flows down as follows: 

  • Spouse or de-facto partner; 
  • Children and their descendants; 
  • Parents;
  • Brothers and sisters; 
  • Grandparents; then
  • Uncles and aunties. 

Someone passes away, what is the next of kin responsible for? 

When an individual passes away, there will usually be a last will & testament that nominates an executor to handle a person’s estate and affairs. If the last will does not specify this, then the next of kin is responsible for handling everything associated with the deceased. 

Certain responsibilities associated with the deceased include: 

  • Managing any financial situations the individual has or had;
  • Making any funeral agreements and other necessary arrangements;
  • Notifying any relatives or friends of the deceased;
  • Making various medical decisions; 
  • Handling of estate and other financial assets, as well as the distribution if necessary; and
  • Registering the person’s death.

What is the Last Will & Testament?

The Last Will & Testament is a legal document that specifies and communicates a person’s final wishes involving assets and how to share them among beneficiaries. This is also where the next of kin is stated, and is often written by an individual just before passing away. Any instructions regarding the assets of the deceased is stated here, including how it is distributed. This is often handled by the executor and held on as the last legal document left behind by a passing individual. 

The next of kin is often responsible for any legal or financial issues tied down to an individual, after he or she has passed. Generally, this could either be a partner or spouse, a relative, or even a friend. The Last Will & Testament would often outline this, however if it has failed to do so, the next of kin hierarchy comes into place and takes the closest blood relative. This generally differs from each legislation in terms of who to prioritise, but has the same concept in terms of responsibility and inheritance. 

If you have any queries, or are unsure as to how to draft your will, you should seek legal advice. Our sister company Legal Kitz can direct you with your next step in determining the hierarchy of next of kin. Our Legal Kitz business specialists can assist with ensuring that your concerns are addressed, and can provide you with advice that is tailored to your situation. You can book a free 30-minute consultation via our website now.