What is a next-of-kin?

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Yesterday I signed on as a dear friend’s next-of-kin, through the NSW police program. My friend lives alone and registering her form with her local police station means if she’s involved in an accident or major incident, I’ll be informed, so will be able to support her.

I’ll let her friends and relatives know, but only to the extent that she wants. Like many of us, she’s needed to create boundaries with some people in recent years.  (This reminds me, I need to get a list from her of exactly who she wants me to contact – and be prepared to rejig it every couple of years .)

A few years ago she went to hospital and I signed a different ‘next-of-kin’ form when she was admitted. This meant I was the point of contact in an emergency. It also meant that if she was transferred to an intensive care unit, or a place where visitors were restricted to one person, I would be that person.

It needs to be remembered that in NSW, next-of-kin has no legal status (unlike in the USA, where NoK is a legal term which relates to inheritance laws.) If my friend wanted me to make any medical decisions on her behalf, should she be unable to communicate, she and I would have to sign an ‘enduring guardian’ form, which is a completely different form again.

The UK’s Bereavement Advice Centre offers information about Who is Responsible for What After Someone Dies  and includes a practical checklist of what to do after someone dies.

And for our New Zealand readers the Public Trust outlines just what happens when there is no will at all.

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