What is a Senior Next of Kin?

The senior next of kin is the main point of contact throughout a coroner's investigation. Learn more below.
What is a Senior Next of Kin?

You’ve likely heard of a ‘next of kin’ (and if you need a refresher, read this guide). But, what about a senior next of kin? Well, on a technical level, it’s a little different than a standard ‘next of kin’, although how they are determined is similar. We’ll explain it all below in layman’s terms (because legal jargon is best left to the professionals, we reckon). 

What is a senior next of kin?

When someone dies under suspicious, violent or sudden circumstances, the coroner will have to step in. This is the person who will investigate the death, and write a coroner’s report. When this happens, a senior next of kin becomes their main point of contact. This person will be notified if any medical procedures are planned (like an autopsy, aka a post-mortem) and be updated on the investigation or any medical reports that the coroner receives. 

A note on the legal term “next of kin”

The term “next of kin” is not a legal term per se, but a social concept used to settle issues like estate disputes, inheritances, and deciding who is best to handle a deceased person’s affairs. A senior next of kin is similar in this respect, however, as we have outlined, the term refers to something else entirely. 

Who can be a Senior Next of Kin?

The senior next of kin is generally the deceased’s spouse or domestic partner. If they reject the role or they aren’t available, then the senior next of kin will fall to an:

In this order:

  • Adult son or daughter
  • Parent
  • Adult sibling
  • Person named in the Will as an executor
  • Person who, immediately before the death, was a personal representative of the deceased
  • An individual identified by the coroner as the senior next of kin due to the close relationship maintained with the deceased person just before their passing.

What does a Senior Next of Kin have to do?

Since the coroner is unable to speak about an open investigation to anyone other than the senior next of kin (or their representative) and family members who become interested parties, it is up to the senior next of kin to keep family members and friends informed about proceedings and updates.

Aside from playing the crucial role of messenger, a senior next of kin may have to confirm the identity of the person who has passed. Fingerprinting, dental records, DNA comparison or other medical and scientific methods of identification may also have to be completed, depending on the circumstances. Medical records may also be needed, so you may have to disclose the name of the deceased’s GP or reveal pertinent information, such as any recent hospital admissions. The Coroner’s Court will let you know what is needed. 

Things to note when it comes to Senior Next of Kin

  • You can apply to be the senior next of kin if someone close to you is dying. However, if the coroner receives multiple applications, they will need to choose the most suitable person.
  • If you are considered next of kin, but you don’t wish to be, you can turn down the role.
  • You can let the Coroner’s Court know if you disagree with the person who has been appointed the senior next of kin. 

Wrap up

The senior next of kin is the main contact for the coroner in investigations and may be called upon to help provide or necessitate the release of medical information. They’re also responsible for updating family and friends about the investigation, as the coroner can’t communicate with others directly (with select exceptions, as outlined above). ‘Senior next of kin’ usually refers to the spouse or partner of a deceased person, but if they decline or are unavailable, someone else takes on the role, based on a specific order. If you are the designated senior next of kin, you will receive detailed instructions on the requirements from the relevant authority, so you won’t be left stumbling in the dark.

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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