If you're looking at making plans around your estate and what comes next, from writing a will to listing out your assets, the question is going to come up again and again - who is your next of kin? Essentially, this is a term that describes your closest living relative, by blood or by relationship.
Legal startup LegalVision have put together a summary that provides a quick intro to the concept:
"The NSW Coroners Act 2009 also assists in determining who will be a person’s (senior) next of kin. Where the Coroner is involved and a decision must be made by a deceased’s next of kin, the Coroner will decide who that person is based on an order of priority. First, the deceased’s spouse, then adult children, parents, adult siblings, then lastly any person named as executor under the person’s will, or who was their legal personal representative immediately before death. A spouse also includes a de facto partner."
That seems mostly straight forward. Your next of kin when you write your Will are likely to be:
Why does this matter?
In some circumstances, particularly when it comes to a Will being contested, or when it comes to the decisions made by the executor, it will be important for the next of kin to be identified in order to recognise any decisions they might legally need to make. While it's impossible to understand the full range of what that might be, it is important to note that your next of kin does hold an important legal place when it comes to your assets and your estate.
What happens if I don't have a Will?
In cases where people pass away without a Will (which is called dying intestate) the estate will largely go to the deceased's next of kin by default. This means that whoever is identified as your next of kin will by and large inherit your assets. If you don't want that to be the case, or you want to make some more complicated and thoughtful plans around your assets, for example by looking after additional friends and loved ones or making charitable gifts, you will want to have a Will in place that directs your estate according to your best wishes.