Your Responsibilities as Next of Kin


What is next of kin?

Unfortunately the words next of kin are often first muttered after a devastating life event; and for many, the concept still remains relatively unknown. In the United Kingdom, there is no universal legal definition of “next of kin” nor a set hierarchy that determines who the next of kin is in all situations.1,2 Generally speaking, next of kin is a term we use to describe your closet living relative, such as your husband, wife, or civil partner.1,2

Your responsibilities as next of kin can vary depending on the circumstances and your legal jurisdiction. Currently, there is no law in the United Kingdom (UK) that governs who exactly you should appoint as your next of kin, but there are important things to consider when it comes to choosing someone to take responsibility for you, your funeral, your legacy, and your estate legally when you die.1,2


What should people consider when appointing their next of kin?

To ensure your wishes are upheld in life and in death, appointing the right next of kin is incredibly important. There are several factors that you should consider when selecting the right person. These include, your legal relationship, their trust and dependability, their respect for your wishes, their geographical proximity, their ability to handle your responsibilities and communicate them eloquently, as well as legal documentation.3

In the UK, you do not appoint your next of kin through a formal legal process. Instead, your next of kin is chosen by you, based on familial relationships and legal guidelines. To ensure your wishes are upheld it’s important to have potentially difficult conversations so that you are both aligned on what to do should the worst happen.


Take these easy steps to make sure that your wishes regarding decision-making and representation are known and respected:

1. Seek legal advice

2. Write a will

3. Create a lasting power of attorney

4. Communicate your wishes

To find out more about this process, and to better understand what to do when someone dies, you can visit the UK Government website here. You can also view our guide here.


Once appointed, what are your rights and responsibilities as next of kin?

As next of kin you have several rights relating to the care of your loved one. While these rights may not be relevant in all cases, it is important you understand that being the next of kin does not confer specific legal rights in the same way that being granted power of attorney or being named as a legal guardian does.4

However, it is vital you are able to advocate for the wishes of your loved one, in their absence. As next of kin, healthcare professionals can consult you in instances where the patient has become incapacitated and is unable to make decisions for themselves, additionally you have the right to be granted access to certain medical information, should it be required.4

Secondly, as next of kin you have the right to be involved in discussions relating to the patient’s end-of-life care preferences, including decisions about resuscitation, life-sustaining treatment, and palliative care.4

Thirdly, in the absence of a legally appointed representative, as next of kin you may be responsible for managing the patient’s financial affairs and funeral arrangements after the persons passing in certain situations; and in a case where children under the age of 18 are involved as next of kin, you may have rights and responsibilities relating to the custody and welfare of the children.4

In terms of the responsibilities of next of kin, these can vary based on several factors such as the individual’s personal wishes, any legal documents they may have in place, including power of attorney and the laws of the jurisdiction in which they live. In the UK a next of kin’s responsibilities typically include medical decision making, financial and legal matters, advocacy, family liaison, legal authority, and funeral arrangements.1,2,4


What is the difference between next of kin and power of attorney

The roles and responsibilities of next of kin and power of attorney are often confused. Whilst both roles relate to decision making on behalf of a loved one, there are important differences between the two roles. A power of attorney is a legally binding document that grants someone the authority to make decisions and take actions on behalf of another person.5 These decisions and actions typically relate to areas of healthcare and finances.5

Whereas a next of kin refers to the person or people who are considered closest to an individual by blood or legalities. They may also be consulted or notified in various situations, such as medical emergencies, but they do not automatically have legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the individual.1,2,4


Why is a next of kin important during funeral planning

Planning a funeral whilst grieving can be incredibly challenging, and it’s important that during this time the next of kin is involved, for several reasons. Logistically, the next of kin serves as the first point of contact for communicating with local councils and funeral service providers.2,6 They may be required to provide information and documentation required to register the death and obtain necessary permits for burial or cremation.4,6

Additionally, the next of kin plays a vital role in coordinating with other family members and loved ones to ensure that everyone has their input and is informed about the upcoming funeral plans. They may also liaise with the clergy, funeral directors, and other services to manage the day.6 From a legal perspective, the next of kin typically has the authority to make decisions regarding the disposition of the deceased and will likely be formally recognised by funeral homes, crematoriums, and burial grounds.4

Funeral homes and crematoriums often require documentation or authorisation from the next of kin before initiating funeral arrangements.6 This process requires signing contracts, releasing medical records, and obtaining permits for burial or cremation; all of which can feel incredibly painful after the loss of a loved one. Having an appointed next of kin for these processes reduces the burden on the family left behind, ensuring they can focus on mourning their loss.

Lastly, from a financial standpoint the next of kin will likely bear financial responsibility for covering the costs associated with the funeral.6 This can include expenses such as burial fees, cremation fees, funeral service arrangements, and transportation costs if the deceased’s estate does not cover these expenses.6 It is important that funeral arrangements are discussed in life to ensure that the next of kin and other family members aren’t left with an unexpected financial burden relating to the funeral.6

Overall, the next of kin’s involvement in funeral planning is key for ensuring that funeral arrangements are carried out in accordance with the deceased’s wishes, legal requirements, and that loved ones have the opportunity to pay respects in a meaningful manner. Making this process as seamless as possible enables loved ones to find closure and begin their grieving journey in their own way.

1 Will Services, 2024. Next of Kin – The Legal Meaning Explained. Available at: Last accessed February 2024.

2 The Gazette, 2024. What Legal Rights Does a Next of Kin Have? Available at: Last accessed February 2024.

3 Guillaumes Solicitors, 2021. What is a Next of ‘Kin’? Understanding its meaning in the UK. Available at: Last accessed February 2024.

4 Roche Legal, 2024. What Rights Does a Next of Kin Have? Available at Last accessed February 2024

5 Age UK, 2024. Power of Attorney. Available at: Last accessed, February 2024.

6 Funeral Guide, 2019. Next of Kin: All You need to Know. Available at: Last accessed February, 2024