Next of Kin in NSW

Next of Kin in NSW

Next of Kin
If someone dies without a will in New South Wales, a person’s next of kin plays a valuable role and will manage the deceased person’s financial affairs and estate. Find out more about what it means to be a next of kin in New South Wales, who is eligible, and their primary responsibilities. Let’s take a closer look.

What does Next of Kin Mean?

A “next of kin” is a person’s spouse, de facto partner, or closest living relative. In Australia, when someone dies or when there is an emergency, the next of kin is the first person who is notified. When a person has died without a will, the next of kin is legally responsible for dealing with the deceased person’s estate. There is actually no legal definition for the term next of kin. Still, each state has laws of intestacy to determine who can apply for letters of administration in the case of a family member’s death.

What is the Purpose of the Next of Kin?

When a person dies in Australia without a valid will (intestate), the next of kin is responsible for applying for letters of administration, which allow them to access the finances and estate of the deceased person, as they will be responsible for managing their affairs. Also, medical professionals may need to contact someone in an emergency and need the correct contact details on their records.

How is Next of Kin Determined in Australia?

Each state in Australia has a specific order of priority to determine who the next of kin is and its own laws regarding intestacy; it is usually the person’s closest living relative. The hierarchy is as follows:
  • Spouse or domestic partner
  • Children over the age of 18
  • Grandchildren over the age of 18
  • Parents
  • Adult siblings (or their adult children)
  • Aunts, Uncles or Cousins
If a person does not wish to be a next of kin, they are not legally bound to take any responsibility. A next of kin is not always the closest living blood relative, mainly if the deceased was not close to their family. A person can nominate a friend or neighbour instead of a family member.

What are the Responsibilities of the Next of Kin?

When someone dies, and there is no will, the next of kin play a vital role in the management and administration of the deceased’s estate and affairs, including, but not limited to, the following tasks;
  • Make decisions regarding organ donation, post-mortem examinations and other medical decisions
  • Contact a funeral director and make funeral arrangements
  • Notify friends and family members
  • Obtain a death certificate by registering the death with the state government
  • Apply for a letter of administration
  • Collect all the property and assets
  • Manage the deceased’s estate and financial affairs
  • Pay any debts
  • Distribute the property and assets among the beneficiaries
A person’s next of kin is responsible for making important decisions, including medical and legal decisions in an emergency or other circumstances. In some circumstances, even when the deceased had a valid will and an executor was appointed, some decisions can only be made by the senior next of kin. For example, under the Human Tissue Act 1983, the next of kin must make decisions regarding organ donation or a post-mortem examination.

What Happens When There is no Next of Kin?

Sometimes, a person may die, and no next of kin can be located. In this situation, the funeral arrangements will be made by a government agency. If the death occurred in the hospital, without any friends or assets, the hospital can make these arrangements. When the person has died in their own home, the police can arrange for a burial or cremation and obtain a death certificate.

What Happens When a Person Dies Without a Valid Will?

It is called intestacy, when a person has died without a valid will. Dying intestate means that the next of kin will be responsible for managing their financial affairs and must obtain court orders called letters of administration to be permitted access to the deceased’s assets. If a person has made a valid will, the dead person’s estate will be managed by an executor nominated before death. (The property and assets of the deceased person are known as their estate.) The executor is generally responsible for ensuring that the terms stated in the will are carried out after the person dies.

What are Letters of Administration?

The next of kin is responsible for managing the financial affairs and estate of the deceased person and is only permitted to do so once they have received the appropriate court orders – letters of administration. The letters of administration order state; the name of the person who has died, that there is no valid will, and the name of the person / next of kin who has the authority to access and manage the deceased person’s estate; they are known as the administrator.

Summary

A “next of kin” is a person’s spouse, de facto partner, or closest living blood relative. In Australia, when someone dies or when there is an emergency situation, the next of kin is the first person who is notified. Each state in Australia has a specific order of priority to determine who the next of kin is. Generally, the next of kin is the deceased’s spouse. Also, a next of kin is the first person someone, like a medical professional, will contact in an emergency. When someone has died intestate, there is no will; the next of kin plays a crucial role in managing and administrating the deceased’s affairs, including making funeral arrangements and distributing the deceased person’s estate.

FAQs

Who is Legally the Next of Kin in Australia?

A “next of kin” is a person’s spouse, de facto partner, or closest living relative. In Australia, when someone dies or when there is an emergency, the next of kin is the first person who is notified. Also, a next of kin is the first person someone, like a medical professional, will contact in an emergency.

What is the Order of Next of Kin NSW?

Each state in Australia has a specific order of priority to determine who the next of kin is. Generally, the next of kin is the deceased’s spouse. The hierarchy is as follows:
  • Spouse or domestic partner
  • Children over the age of 18
  • Grandchildren over the age of 18
  • Parents
  • Siblings (or their adult children)
  • Aunts, Uncles or Cousins

Simon Fletcher is the Principal Solicitor at FletchLaw. He has been admitted as a solicitor to the High Court of Australia and the Supreme Court of New South Wales. His academic qualifications include of a Bachelor of Laws, a Graduate Certificate in Professional Legal Practice and a Master of Applied Laws (Mediation and Family Law Dispute Resolution). He can offer assistance in a wide variety of legal areas.

Do you have a problem with Next of Kin Issues or any other legal issue? Call us on 02 9159 9026 to find out how we can help.

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