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Estate planning is always important, but its value becomes more evident when a loved one passes away without having any last will or testament in place.
The last will is a legal document that provides specific instructions for how a person's assets will be distributed when they die.
Creating this will could be the best way for your family member to ensure they have everything they need when you pass away.
You get to leave behind a legacy for your surviving family members to enjoy for years to come. While the process can be stressful, it could also be the best gift you could ever leave behind for your family.
What does the phrase 'next of kin' mean?
What does the phrase 'next of kin' mean in Australia? If you've lost a loved one, then it would be helpful for you to be familiar with Australian laws before moving forward with any proceedings.
First of all, you need to know what 'next of kin' means in case you're not aware.
In general, next of kin in Australia refers to the relatives of the deceased person. In case of demise, these people are notified in case no emergency contact was appointed. The next of kin make crucial decisions in case someone passed away without leaving a will.
Who qualifies as next of kin in Australia?
The next of kin has an important role in managing the estate or wealth of the deceased. Aside from making the funeral arrangements, the next of kin will also handle legal decisions.
The following are examples of the people that can be referred to as 'next of kin' in Australia:
- The spouse or partner (de facto)
- The parents
- Children and siblings who are 18 years old and above
The next of kin may also be the deceased's closest living relative, so an aunt, uncle, or grandparents may also be included.
In most cases, the spouse/partner or the adult children will be the coroner's main point of contact. Also, there is a legal order that must be followed with regards to next of kin relatives. The spouse or domestic partner of the deceased tops the hierarchy, followed by:
- Adult children - the oldest takes seniority
- The deceased's parents
- Adult siblings - the oldest takes seniority
The importance of preparing a will, whether independently or from service providers like Willed.com.au, cannot be disregarded.
If there are no known living relatives assigned as next of kin in a person's will, non-relatives may also be considered as the deceased's next of kin, such as the person who was appointed as executor of the will.
They may also be the personal representative of the person who passed away or the individual determined by the coroner as the deceased's next of kin due to the closeness of their relationship.
The rights and responsibilities of the next of kin
The definition of a next of kin is a relationship by blood, marriage, civil union, or adoption. In most countries, if you're the designated beneficiary of a loved one's death, then you may be awarded a financial inheritance.
Aside from notifying family and friends of the person's death, the next of kin shall also be responsible for:
- Registering the person's death
- Handling funeral arrangements
- Making any medical decisions (such as organ donation)
- Administering or managing the estate of the deceased
What happens if there's no next of kin?
In most instances, the decedent's estate contains a last will and testament, which is a document that legally provides instructions to whomever it names as having authority to make decisions on behalf of the decedent.
If there's no will, or if the decedent did not authorise his or her estate to have a will, then the court can appoint an individual to act as the next of kin under the circumstances described in the will.
In most instances, this means that the state has to appoint a personal representative, known as an executor, to handle the affairs of the deceased.
Once appointed, the executor will assume all responsibilities that are required under state law, including making legal decisions and arranging for the distribution of property and assets to the beneficiaries.
Executors do not hold any special position and are typically selected by the court based on their qualifications, experience, and proximity to the deceased.
A last will and testament are very important when creating or updating an estate plan. It's a way to make sure that your final wishes are carried out.
Making sure that your wishes are recorded in a legal document makes everything else that much easier. An experienced lawyer can help you get everything prepared to make your last will a legally binding document, to make the process go more smoothly and, in the end be beneficial to you and your family.