When a loved one passes away, the next of kin is normally in charge of making legal choices, funeral preparations, and estate administration.

There is no precise terminology that defines who is your next of kin. However, the phrase usually refers to someone nominated as next of kin in the will or as determined by intestacy laws if there is no will.

This article discusses what the phrase "next of kin" means and how it applies to the estate planning and will-writing process.

Who is your next of kin, and why do they matter?

The nearest living relative is usually classed as the next of kin. In England, a person's next of kin is usually their marriage partner or nearest living blood relative. And the phrase is most commonly used in estate planning papers like a Last Will and Testament. 

When a loved one passes away, the next of kin is frequently the first to be contacted (unless another person is listed as the emergency contact).

The deceased person's next of kin will frequently be required to make critical choices and take on specific duties for the deceased person's affairs and estate.

What is the legal order of next of kin?

The UK is yet to officially provide a formal legal definition for the term ‘next of kin’. However, there are general understandings regarding who this person may be, usually legal or blood relatives. 

A person’s next of kin is typically their spouse or closest living relative. The following hierarchy determines who is the most senior next of kin (in order):

The next of kin, after the spouse, would be the nearest blood (or adopted) relative, from children to parents, then siblings, and so on.

  • spouse or civil partner
  • an adult daughter or son
  • parent
  • adult sibling

Legally these people will be given next of kin precedence over common-law partners or long-standing friends unless these individuals are appointed as executors of your Will. 

For those who made a Will before passing, the person named as their executor will be the one who is responsible for arranging matters after someone’s passing. The executor may nominate someone to help them carry out these responsibilities and act on their behalf if they choose.

It is only in cases where there is no legal or blood relative or executor of a will that someone else may be nominated to step forward and deal with matters like registering the death and planning a cremation or funeral.

 If you’re planning a funeral, you can obtain a free quote on the Bare Cremation website here, or call 0808 258 3583 any time of day or night. 

What are the responsibilities of a next of kin?

A Last Will & Testament appoints an executor to manage a person's inheritance after they pass away. If a person dies without leaving a legal Will, often known as 'dying intestate,' their next of kin typically inherits the estate.

It is best to make or revise your Will now to prevent any possible confusion caused by dying intestate.

Funeral arrangements

One of the core responsibilities of the next of kin is to arrange the funeral or cremation of their loved one.

Register the death.

Before you start making any funeral arrangements, you must first register the death. This must be done within 5 days of the person’s passing. You will also need to inform the government of the death before you can proceed with the send-off that your loved one deserves. 

Work with the funeral director.

In most cases, you will need to work with a funeral director. They will help organise every aspect of the funeral from finding a suitable time to pick up the deceased’s body to sorting the coffin and managing the funeral or cremation ceremony. 

Arrange a funeral that they would love.

Arranging a funeral is difficult, especially because of the added burden of grief. There are many options available, from traditional funerals to simple cremations, so you should be able to find something that suits your situation.

It is important to note that not all providers are equal, and choosing the right one can significantly impact how the rest of the cremation organisation and service goes.

Keep things within budget.

Funerals and cremations can be expensive. Luckily, there are more affordable options available. Bare offers inexpensive cremations that allow you to say goodbye without unnecessary fuss or costs. Visit us to find a solution that works for you.

There is no need to worry if you cannot afford to cover the cost of a funeral arrangement. You can find help and support if you need it.

Wills & estate admin

If a person dies without a Will, the next of kin must also petition for Probate to be named the estate's administrator. They may access accounts, sell property, and distribute assets to anybody, including themselves, as an administrator. 

If there is no Will or executor and the next of kin agrees to take on the obligation, their duties are as follows:

  • Making decisions concerning organ donation and post-mortem examinations for the Coroner (if applicable)
  • Notifying family and friends of the death
  • Finalising the deceased person’s financial affairs
  • Administering the deceased estate: establishing the value of assets and distribution to the deceased person’s beneficiaries

To learn more, you can always chat with our team on 0808 258 3583.

This material is not intended to provide legal advice. For detailed advice on your personal or financial circumstances, you should see a lawyer.


There is support available if you're having trouble coping with sorrow following a loss. You can talk to a close friend or family member or see your doctor. If you or someone you know is in urgent danger, you may phone the NHS on 111 for immediate assistance or 999 for emergency assistance. You may get help from Bare by visiting our grief support page.