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Next of kin

Download this guide as an easy-to-print leaflet - Next Of Kin (158 KB)

Where there's a will...

Naming your partner as your next of kin won't help them inherit from you. You need to make a will. Go to our Wills & Inheritance Issues section for more information.

Whether or not you would be recognised as your partner’s 'next of kin' in the event of an emergency is something that worries many cohabiting couples. Would you be informed if your partner was in an accident? Would you be given information about your partner’s condition? Would you even be allowed to see them in hospital? Might your family even argue about who was your next of kin?

Despite the widespread use of the phrase, ‘next of kin’ is not defined by the law. This means it could be anyone. Practice hospitals have generally recognised spouses and close blood relatives as next of kin and have sometimes excluded cohabiting partners. This has been more common with same-sex partners, but has also happened to male-female couples.

As families have become more diverse, the policy in most NHS trusts is to ask you to nominate your next of kin formally, on your admission to hospital. Make sure you always choose the same person as you have put on this card (if possible). If you are unable to say, because for example you are unconscious, they will try to work out who is the person closest to you. They may get this wrong, particularly if your personal circumstances are confusing or "unusual" (for example, if you consider your best friend to be your next of kin, rather than your dad).

We've created the next of kin card to make it absolutely clear to medical staff who you have chosen as your next of kin, and how to contact them. It has been designed to fit in your wallet and can be carried with you everywhere. If there is any disagreement while you are unconscious, your next of kin can be contacted.

Download our Next Of Kin (158 KB) - it comes complete with a Next of Kin card to be kept in your wallet. The card will help clarify your wishes if you fall ill, and ensure that your partner is treated as your next of kin.

What you need to think about before you complete the card
There are no rules about who can and who cannot be your next of kin. You can nominate your partner, a member of your family, or a good friend. For some people, choosing their next of kin may be obvious, others may need to consider it carefully.

Before completing the form, discuss your decision with the person you have chosen. Make sure they are willing to be your next of kin for medical purposes (you could show them this leaflet).

What does it mean?
By completing this card and carrying it with you, you are making it clear that you wish the named person to be treated as your next of kin if you are admitted to hospital. This means that they would be informed that you are in hospital, and hospital staff would look to them for guidance about your care if you were unable to communicate (for example, if you were unconscious). If you were to die, your next of kin would be consulted about issues such as making funeral arrangements or a hospital post-mortem.

Your next of kin cannot consent or refuse consent to treatment on your behalf (nobody can do that). But they can let doctors know what decisions they believe you would make if you were able to.

A next of kin has no legal liabilities, and no rights to your medical notes or personal possessions.

What else should I do?
You should let your friends and family know who you have chosen as your next of kin and let them know where you keep this card.

Discuss with your next of kin how you would like to be treated in the event of serious illness (for example, if you wish to donate your organs).

Can you spare a few minutes?
We would be grateful if you could tell us what you think of this information by completing our survey. We will use your feedback to improve our guides and make sure they are as helpful as possible.

Mary Webber - Advicenow

August 2010


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Married or not - One Plus One

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Married or not looks at the differences between marriage and cohabitation, what your rights are, and how to raise some of the trickier issues with your partner.

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Did you think your 'next of kin' had to be a family member?

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