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What Does ‘Next of Kin’ Mean in Australia? The Ultimate Guide

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When someone passes in Australia, the next of kin is the first person to be notified of what happened if the deceased did not leave a valid will.

In today’s post, we discuss what next of kin means in Australia, their responsibilities and how to identify who it is if someone passes without leaving a valid will.

The definition of ‘Next of Kin’ in Australia

In Australia, the term next of kin is a person’s spouse, de factor partner or closest living relative above 18.

Unless there’s another emergency contact listed, a person’s next of kin is the first person notified if anything happens.

If the deceased has died without leaving a valid will, the next of kin becomes responsible for making important decisions. These can include funeral arrangements, legal decisions, and managing their estate.

Who qualifies as a person’s next of kin?

The term next of kin is not technically legally defined in Australia but there’s enough evidence to determine who’s the senior next of kin.

The senior next of kin varies from state to state across Australia but it’s usually the family member who’s recognized as the main point of contact by the coroner.

In most cases, a person’s next of kin is their spouse or closest living relative. The following list is some examples of who might be a person’s next of kin in order of closeness:

  • Spouse or De Facto Partner;
  • Parents;
  • Adult Children (over the age of 18);
  • Siblings (over the age of 18);
  • A person determined by the coroner as the senior next of kin because of their closeness to the deceased person immediately before they died.

Because next of kin is technically a person’s closest living relative, it could also include grandparents or aunt and uncles.

What are the responsibilities of the ‘Next of Kin’?

Usually, a person leaves a will which nominates an executor to handle a person’s estate when they die. When a person dies without leaving a will, the next of kin assumes responsibility for managing their affairs.

If there’s no will and the next of kin is responsible, they need to apply for a Letter of Administration. The letter of administration is a court order that allows the next of kin to divide and hand out the assets the person left behind.

On top of administering the estate, the next of kin might also be responsible for:

  • Making funeral arrangements;
  • Notifying friends and family of the person’s death;
  • Registering the person’s death;
  • Making medical decisions;
  • Looking after the person’s financial affairs;
  • Administering the deceased person’s estate and distributing their beneficiaries.


When a person has a valid will at the time of their death, the listed executor is responsible for fulfilling the terms of the will. Only when there is no will present does a next of kin need to carry out these responsibilities.

Generally, the next of kin is the person’s spouse, de facto partner, children or closest blood relative such as grandparents, aunt and uncles or siblings.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting or tax advice

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