Many people in the UK might not realise this – but there’s actually no specific legal definition of “next of kin”, and the phrase is often used in different ways according to the context. While there are no specific laws in the UK that govern who you should name as your next of kin, there are some circumstances where you need to know what the rules are and how they could affect you.
In this article, we’ll cover three specific scenarios where you’ll need to consider your next of kin. In each one, the rules are different, and there could be serious consequences if you make the wrong choice, so it’s worth being sure you’ve got it right.
Next of kin for under 18s
The first situation to mention is that children under 18 have their legal next of kin as either their parent or guardian, and they have the legal authority to make certain decisions on their behalf.
Next of kin for hospital care
For those being admitted to hospital in the UK, a next of kin is generally required. However, this isn’t a legal next of kin, and most hospitals will allow you to choose someone you’d prefer, rather than requiring that they are legally related to you.
In hospitals, your next of kin will be responsible for things like being the first point of contact from the hospital, collecting you after your treatment, or even making decisions about your health if you don’t have the capacity to make them for yourself.
Next of kin for wills
Now, when it comes to wills in the UK, this is the subject that we know all about about here at Face to Face Estate Planning. It’s also the next of kin situation that’s the most complex, with lots of different rules that come into play.
For example, if you die without leaving a will, the rules of intestacy will come into play. These determine a specific order of priority of inheritance, which goes as follows:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Brothers and sisters
- Half-brothers and half-sisters
- Aunts and uncles
- Half-aunts and uncles
If you want to make sure that your estate is shared out to people outside of this order, you need to write a will. We’d recommend writing one anyway, even if you do intend on leaving your estate to your spouse or civil partner, as dying intestate can lead to lengthy legal battles and allow people to make claims on your estate that they otherwise wouldn’t have the authority to do.
The next of kin is also responsible for applying for probate, if that is required by the estate.
If you’re worried about the next of kin rules in the UK affecting your estate after you die, the best thing to do is to ensure you’ve got a will in place that accurately reflects your wishes. If you need help with this, why not speak to Face to Face Estate Planning? Our will writing service gives you confidence that your estate will be divided up how you want it to be, and our team of friendly will writers really take the time to get to know you and your wishes.