What Exactly Does Next of Kin Mean?

You most likely do not need to think about it anymore, you already know whose name to write every time you are required to name your Next of Kin. But have you ever thought about it? When you name a person Next of Kin, how much authority are you giving to that person, what should you expect of them, what are they empowered to do?

What exactly does ‘Next of Kin’ mean?

The term “Next of kin” refers to your nearest relation according to law, someone to be called upon in case of any eventuality. A next of kin can be a spouse, child or relation. It should however be noted that a next of kin is not necessarily the person intended as direct beneficiary of the deceased’s estate or entitlement.

Your ‘Next of Kin’ is

  • The first contact point if anything happens to you
  • Empowered to make decisions for you in times of emergency, where you are not readily available or able to make the decisions yourself.
  • Empowered to provide necessary information about you where needed such as confirming your identity
  • Positioned to make medical decisions such as providing consent for a medical procedure

Your ‘Next of Kin’ is NOT

  • In any way entitled to inherit your estate if anything happens to you
  • Automatically qualified to inherit your wealth
  • Superior to the beneficiaries named in a Will
  • Exempted from the legal processes and laws of inheritance

What can the ‘Next of Kin’ do in case of demise?

Regarding demise and claim of the deceased’s estate, the Next of Kin does not really have legal authority. At best, he or she can ensure that necessary steps are taken towards obtaining letter of administration from the probate.

The way to secure your estate and decide who gets what is to set up a Will or a Trust. Your Pension funds for instance will not be automatically transferred to your next of kin, except he/she is named as beneficiary in your RSA Will. Where there is no RSA Will, the next of Kin mentioned in the Pension Fund Account or any other relation legally recognized must secure grant of probate in order to access the funds in the Pension Account.

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