Next of kin
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.
The issue of 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 given information about your partner’s condition? And 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. Therefore, there is no reason why your partner shouldn’t be treated as your ‘next of kin’ despite the fact that you are not married. However, in 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 partners.
As attitudes have changed and families have become more diverse, most hospitals are more flexible. The policy in most NHS trusts is to ask you to nominate your next of kin formally on your admission to hospital.
However, 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. We've designed it so that it fits in your wallet and can be carried with you everywhere. If there is any disagreement while you are unconscious it can be called on to prove your wishes. Download our Next Of Kin (158 KB) card here.
What you need to think about before you complete the card
Despite popular myth 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, who to choose as your next of kin may be obvious, others may need to consider it carefully.
Before you complete the form, you should discuss your decision with the person you have chosen. Make sure that they are willing to be treated as your next of kin for medical purposes and that they understand what it involves (you could show them our leaflet).
What does it mean?
By completing this card and carrying it with you in your wallet, 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 they are the person that hospital staff would look to for guidance about your care if you were unable to communicate your wishes clearly yourself (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. Nominating a next of kin does not affect who will inherit from you if you die.
What else should I do?
- You should let your other friends and family know who you have chosen as your next of kin and let them know where you keep your next of kin card.
- If you have ‘in case of emergency’ details in your wallet or diary name your next of kin there.
- If you have a donor card, or wish to donate your organs when you die, you should ensure that your next of kin knows. You should also discuss any other wishes you have about how you would like to be treated in the event of serious illness.
- When you are admitted to hospital you are usually asked to complete a form stating who your next of kin is. Make sure you always choose the same person as you have put on this card (if possible).
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