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What does “next of kin” mean in estate planning?

Updated: Feb 22

Creating a last will and testament is about more than simply deciding what happens to your belongings when you pass away. It’s a way to leave meaningful gifts for the people who matter most to you.


Your Will gives your loved ones a roadmap for your final wishes, including who should receive each of your possessions. But if you pass away without a Will, the Intestacy Rules will determine who inherits your estate.


This means turning to your next of kin.


What is next of kin?


“Next of kin” refers to your closest living blood relative (or relatives), like your children, parents, or siblings. People related to you by law, like your spouse or an adopted child, are also legally considered your next of kin. If you pass away with a Will, your property transfers to your chosen beneficiaries — the people and organisations you name in your Will to receive your property. But if you die without a Will (known as dying intestate), your next of kin is first in line to inherit your assets and property. Your local court Will determine your next of kin based on an arbitrary set of rules called Intestacy Rules.


What is the order of next of kin?


If you die without an estate plan, the Intestacy Rules will determine your next of kin and the order in which they should receive your property. The next of kin order is generally:


  • Your spouse

  • Your children and grandchildren (both biological and adopted)

  • Your parents

  • Your siblings

  • Your extended family (like nieces, nephews, grandparents, and cousins)


Here are a few examples of how intestate succession works:


  • Bill is married and has no children. If Bill passes away without an estate plan, his spouse will inherit his entire estate.

  • John is married and has children from a previous relationship (not children of the marriage). If John passes away without an estate plan, his spouse will inherit his entire estate. Without a Will John’s children would not receive any of his estate.

  • Susan is not married and has two children. If she passes away without a Will, her estate will be divided equally between her children.

  • Paul is not married, has no children, and passes away without a will. If his parents are still living, his estate will be transferred to them. If his parents are deceased, his estate will go to his next living relative: first his siblings, then to his extended family.


An important note: Your foster children, stepchildren, and step-siblings aren’t considered next of kin in the eyes of the law. If you want these individuals to inherit part of your estate, you must have an estate plan and name them as beneficiaries.


In conclusion, ensuring that your estate is distributed according to your wishes and avoiding the complexities of intestacy is paramount for securing your family's future. At RJM Solicitors, we understand the importance of proper Will writing and estate planning to provide you with peace of mind. Our team of experienced professionals is dedicated to assisting you in crafting a comprehensive estate plan that safeguards your assets and directs them to the people you hold dear.


Don't leave your family's future to chance, contact RJM Solicitors today to take advantage of our expertise and safeguard your legacy for generations to come. Let us help you navigate the intricacies of estate planning, so you can rest assured that your loved ones will be cared for and your final wishes respected.

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