Next of Kin - What Rights Do They Have?

Next of Kin – What Rights Do You Have?

Although not necessarily a legal term in Australia, next of kin can be described as a person’s closest blood relative or somebody with a close relationship to a person (such as a husband or wife). Next of kin recognition tends to differ in each state in Australia. Who is next of kin usually arises in relation to medical procedures and when a person dies in terms of organ donation and organising (or inheriting) a deceased estate.

Who is next of kin?

Usually, next of kin will be the person’s husband, wife, de facto partner or parents. There are limitations on how many relatives can be recognised as next of kin in Australia. These are usually:

  • A child or children of the siblings of the deceased (first cousins).
  • Any descendants of the first cousins (including children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren).

What are the rights and responsibilities of next of kin?

Next of kin are usually not legally obligated to act on anything or accept responsibility. However, in most cases, the next of kin assumes the role and does the following:

  • Register the death and provide details of death within 30 days.
  • Organise the funeral with a funeral director.

If the next of kin chooses not to organise the events after the person’s death, this is taken up by the executor of the will, if there is one. Where there is no executor of a will or a death occurs in another state, the processes are different.

An executor maintains the first rights to the possession of the body until it is cremated or buried. The only element of the will that the executor must abide in relation to the deceased body falls under the Human Tissue Act 1983 about organ donation.

If there is no executor of the will, or no will at all, the next of kin is deemed responsible for the deceased’s body. The next of kin in this circumstance is usually a husband, wife, partner (including a same sex partner), children or parents. If they do not wish to be involved with the deceased’s funeral or estate, then a government contract must be drawn up.

The commonly known term of ‘Paupers Funeral’ is arranged for people who do not have any family, assets or executors of their will. In this case, the hospital where they passed will arrange a funeral (cremation or burial) via a government contractor.

If a you’re unsure where you stand, you should seek advice from a wills and estate planning lawyer.

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