I’ve been having this debate with my stepbrothers – what is the legal order of next of kin? This question is relevant to the matter of precedence of inheritance from my father (my stepmother died last summer), he says there’s no such thing. My wife says the fact of this being a blended family makes the principle of the legal order of next of kin moot. Please set us on the right path.
Thanks, Freya

Dear Freya

You’ve a not uncommon question.

Legal Order of Next of Kin
Who’s next, I?

Legal Order of Next of Kin – The Elephant Test

Next of kin is merely a term of art. Like most things, what one sees depends on where one stands. The term next of kin might have been born so we can fit it to the elephant test – that thing where something is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. By the end of this article we’d have seen the answers to such questions as:

  • how to prove you are next of kin
  • is the eldest child next of kin and even
  • who is my next of kin if I am single?

Legal Order of Next of Kin – The Meaning

Next of kin simply means closest relative. Our difficulty is there is that like other phrases with which we might be familiar such as blended family and common law wife, next of kin has no legal meaning.

Many believe there is a set order of next of kin rights and responsibilities. The only condition in which this would obtain is when a person is child – the next of kin would thus be the child’s legal guardian or parent.

Legal Order of Next of Kin – Lasting Powers of Attorney

What we see, what we mean, depends on where we stand. What we mean depends on where we are. Next of kin is usually relevant in two contexts, in life and after death. In a person’s lifetime, the uncertainty of the term is overcome by granting lasting powers of attorney to the people you’d want to exercise any rights or assume responsibilities in your name.

The term next of kin is for people who have not made positive choices about people they want to be in control of their affairs. In healthcare or social care settings, the term next of kin is has the meaning ‘emergency contact’ or ‘decision maker’. In hospital, in the event of sudden illness or accident and the patient were unable to communicate their wishes, hospital staff might seek input from third parties – they’d look for the next of kin, this is when things start to get interesting.
Powers of attorney cease to have effect when the person who granted them [the donor] dies.

Legal Order of Next of Kin – Inheritance

The matter of the next of kin arises on death when the deceased person made no clear valid arrangements on the distribution of their estate. This matter arises when there is no will. This matter arises when someone dies intestate. In the event there was no will, it might fall to the next of kin to deal with such matters as the funeral, application to the courts for the correct grant and estate administration.

Because the term next of kin is like jelly, can be moulded to suit the prevailing circumstances, the answer to the question is: ‘it’s up to you’. Your dad’s right, there’s no such thing as next of kin.

Legal Order of Next of Kin – Blended Families

Your sister’s right, as yours is a blended family, the question of the legal order of next of kin redundant. It is a bafflement that you are talking of the natural order of next of kin, as it would be relevant only if you were contemplating intestacy.

The good news is that you’re having this discussion among you, and most importantly, your father apparently has the capacity to participate intelligently and intelligibly. You should place no reliance on the principle of the legal order of next of kin UK. Rather, your family especially your padre should exercise the power to give instructions on the division of his estate. Naturally, you may book a free discovery call so you may cast your wishes in a legally sound and enforceable fashion that suits the wishes and circumstances of your family.

Thus, the question of how is next of kin when someone dies without a will would be redundant.

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