What Is The Difference Between A Next Of Kin and A Beneficiary

The term “Next of Kin” doesn’t really have a strict legal meaning – and it is often much misunderstood.

If someone is unfortunate enough to need hospital treatment, then they will often be asked who they want to be regarded as their “Next of Kin”. A patient can choose to nominate anyone – it might usually be a husband or wife, but it could equally be a partner, an adult child, a best friend or a next-door neighbour. From the hospital’s point of view, they want to know who they should contact if there was an emergency and so people have a choice as to who they would like to nominate. There isn’t any legal order of priority.

People are equally free to decide who they want to chose to be an Executor of their Estate – and who they want to deal with the Administration of their Estate after they pass away. People making a Will can nominate any adult to act as an Executor and that could be a husband or wife, an adult child, a partner or a friend.

If an individual doesn’t make a Will, then the law will impose a list of priority as to who can apply for “Letters of Administration”. This would usually be the person who die’s husband or wife, adult child, parents and then brothers and sisters. Sometimes disputes arise if more than one child wants to obtain a Letters of Administration or if, for example, parents are separated and both want to undertake the role – this is one of the reasons why it is often best to make a Will – so that this type of dispute does not arise.

A Beneficiary is someone who stands to inherit all or part of an Estate from someone who has died. A Beneficiary can be nominated in a Will or, if there isn’t a Will, then the “intestacy rules” will apply. These are rules made by Government as to who will be a Beneficiary of an Estate if there isn’t a Will. Friends, neighbours or even a social partner cannot be a Beneficiary of an Estate if there is no Will.

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