What does ‘Next of Kin’ mean in Australia?

In Australia, the term ‘Next of Kin’ means a person’s spouse, domestic partner or closest living blood relative who is over 18 years of age. Whilst there is no formal legal recognition or legal rights of Next of Kin, they play a very important role if a person dies without a valid Will.

At Probate Consultants we understand that dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy. The emotional and psychological impacts are only one aspect of this multi-faceted and challenging life event. There are many practical things that need to be done and determining who is responsible to complete them is an important first step.

If you have lost a loved one and need some friendly support and guidance, contact us today for a Free Consultation. There are no timers, and never any obligations. We are here to help in any way we can.

What are the responsibilities of Next of Kin in Australia?

Generally, when a person dies in Australia the following things need to be done:

  1. Contacting a funeral director or other end-of-life service provider to make funeral arrangements
  2. Notifying family members and friends
  3. Registering the death with the State government and obtaining a Death Certificate
    • This is usually arranged by the service provider performing the funeral
  4. Managing and finalising their estate (property, assets and any debt)
    • This often involves applying for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration

These responsibilities are usually carried out by the executor appointed in the Will. Where there is no Will, the deceased’s Next of Kin can assume these duties.

Responsibilities of Next of Kin

Probate

  • There is a valid Will
  • Executor(s) named in the Will apply for the Grant
  • Executor(s) administer and finalise the estate
  • Property and Assets in the estate are distributed to those entitled under the Will

Letters Of Administration

  • No valid Will
  • Closest next-of-kin applies for the Grant
  • Next-of-kin administers and finalises estate
  • Property and Assets distributed according to the laws of intestacy

Next of Kin or Executor – Who is responsible for dealing with the affairs of a deceased person?

Next of Kin or Executor

Where there is a valid Will, the executor has the legal responsibility of dealing with the majority of the deceased person’s affairs. Where a person passes away without a Will, they have died intestate, and their closest living (senior) Next of Kin can make funeral arrangements and administer the estate.

Please Note: Only the Next of Kin can make decisions regarding organ donation and post-mortem examinations. An executor cannot make these decisions.

Whilst identifying the executors of a Will is usually straightforward, determining who the Next of Kin is can be challenging especially if there are multiple partners.

How is the Next of Kin determined in Australia?

Whilst there is no legal definition of Next of Kin in Australia, each State and Territory has its own laws of intestacy which provide a specific order of priority in which people can apply for Letters of Administration. These laws provide a useful guide in determining who the Next of Kin is in Australia. See the usual hierarchy below:

  1. Lawful spouse or domestic partner
  2. Adult Children
  3. Adult Grandchildren
  4. Parents
  5. Siblings (or their adult children where they have predeceased)
  6. Remoter next of kin (Uncles, Aunties, Cousins)

The Next of Kin in Australia can refuse to take on the responsibilities of dealing with a person’s affairs where they have died intestate (without a Will). They are not bound by law to perform these duties.

Selecting the right next of kin

What are Letters of Administration?

Whilst the Next of Kin can make funeral arrangements and contact institutions (Banks, Centrelink, Utilities) to notify them of their loved one’s death without any formal authority, they will often need to obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration to deal their property and assets. This is known as the deceased person’s estate.

A Grant of Letters of Administration is a legal document issued by the Supreme Court that certifies:

  1. The named person has died (the deceased)
  2. The deceased did not leave behind a valid Will
  3. The person named in the Grant, usually the deceased’s closest Next of Kin, has the authority to access and deal with the deceased’s estate.
    • This person is known as the Administrator

Once Letters of Administration are granted, the Administrator must manage and finalise the deceased person’s estate. Generally, this involves:

  • Collecting all property and assets.
  • Paying any debts.
  • Distributing the assets according to the laws of intestacy.

The laws of intestacy in each State and Territory outline who is entitled to the deceased person’s estate where there is no Will. The entitlements are based on the deceased’s personal and familial relationships at the time of their passing.

Learn More about Letters of Administration and Intestacy here.

How does the Next of Kin apply for Letters of Administration?

There are four main ways to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration in Australia:

  • Prepare the application yourself.
  • Engage Probate Consultants to assist with your application.
  • Instruct a lawyer to act on your behalf.
  • Authorise a Trustee Company to act as the administrator.

There are pros and cons to each option and finding the best way to apply is an important decision for the Next of Kin.

If you are the Next of Kin and need assistance with applying for Letters of Administration, contact us on 1300 561 803 for a Free Consultation.

Letter of administration application

Summary

When a person dies in Australia, their affairs need to be managed and finalised. This starts with making funeral arrangements and ends with the administration of their property and assets.

Where there is a Will, the executors are responsible for administering the deceased person’s estate. Where there is no Will, the deceased’s closest living Next of Kin can carry out these responsibilities.

In many cases, a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration is required to deal with the deceased’s assets. These Grants are formal documents issued by the Supreme Court that prove that the named person has the legal authority to administer and distribute the estate.

Probate Consultants is Australia’s highest rated Probate Service assisting Executors and Next of Kin obtain Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration in the fasted possible time – Guaranteed! Book a time for a Free Consultation and speak with one of our experts via telephone or video call.

Call 1300 561 803 for a Free Consultation today or Book a time for a Call-Back. There is no timer and never any obligations. We will provide you with all the information you need to make the right choice for you and your family.

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