Next of Kin
In Australia when a person passes without leaving a valid Will typically the next of kin will be the first point of contact that is appointed the responsibility for all the decision making when it comes to legal matters, burial choices, and the organisation of the deceased’s estate.
Who is the “Next of Kin”
Generally speaking, the next of kin in Australia refers to a person’s immediate family member or the closet living relative that is over the age of 18.
Each state and Territory have different guidelines for who qualifies as next of kin but is typically the closest living relative to the deceased ie;
- Partner or spouse
- Adult children
- Adult siblings
- Legal personnel
In some circumstances the coroner will step in and be involved in the decision making of who they think is to be appointed based on priority to the deceased.
The responsibilities of a next of kin as generally the same as if they were nominated as the Executor of a Will to manage an estate and affairs.
Those that have been appointed as a next of kin without a person leaving a Will, will need to apply to the courts for a Letter of Administration which will give them the legal authority and rights to take care of the distribution of the estate.
In some situations, even when the deceased has left a Will and appointed an executor this does not automatically give them the legal power to make medical decision. This is where a next of kin will need to be appointed to make such decision as if the deceased is going to be an organ donor, involved in medical studies and examinations etc, again giving top priority to a spouse/partner, parents or adult siblings.