A next of kin is as a person’s closest living blood relative or relatives. When someone dies, their estate and assets will be inherited by their next of kin, and according to the state of law, each of the members have their respected law describing who they are.
Each state has intestate inheritance laws specifying the legal next of kin when you die. Your state’s law lists who will get an inheritance from you when you die without a will. The next of kin order will usually pass your assets to your primary next of kin: spouse and any children. The assets are normally divided among them with the spouse getting the largest portion. If you have no children, your spouse gets it all. If you have no spouse, your children inherit it all.
In the absence of a surviving spouse or children, or you don’t have a spouse and children, the next of kin to inherit from you will then be your parents or grandparents. Siblings, then nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, and cousins are further down the line if there are no closer family members.
Note that the next of kin laws don’t have to be between biological relations and adoptive relations. So, if the deceased has an adoptive child and a biological child, they are treated the same. If the deceased person was adopted into a family, the members of the adoptive family are the next of kin, just as if they were biologically related. Adopted children are treated as blood relatives. However, relatives by marriage are never considered next of kin.
In a rare case where there’s no next of kin found at all, the assets will be taken by the state.
If you die without having created a will, which is referred to as intestate, your assets are distributed to your next of kin. If you have a will when you die, your assets go to the people you name in the will, and they are called the beneficiaries. These beneficiaries do not have to be family members and can be anyone you select. Even though you did not make a will, your assets are given to your close family members.
After the person has died, to have their assets passed to their next of kin, an administrator or personal representative must be appointed by the court. Usually, this person is the next of kin, such as a spouse or child. The administrator takes on the job of paying off the deceased’s debts, if there’s any, with the remaining assets, locating the legal next of kin under the state law, and then handling the paperwork to get the assets transferred the next legitimate inheritor.
Otherwise, note that if the deceased left a will, the estate will go through the probate process, where the will is validated, and its instructions followed. The state-specific administration proceedings only occur if there is no will.
In the United States, they have a legal definition of “next of kin” and follow the law of inheritance strictly for the blood relatives only. While in the United Kingdom, “next of kin” may have no legal definition and may not necessarily refer to blood relatives at all. An individual can nominate any other individual as their next of kin.
There is no requirement for the nominated person to be a blood relative or spouse, although it is usually the case, but the designated person must agree to the nomination and must be aware of it; otherwise, it is invalid. Someone who has no close family or who has no contact with their surviving family members may decide to list someone outside their family as their next of kin, for instance, it can be a friend or a neighbor.
Legal Answers¹ provides a more comprehensive explanation concerning a deceased person’s wills, assets and properties. The site also includes a general instruction to what (should) happen when someone dies.
The next of kin usually is the one who arranges the deceased person’s funeral, on the other hand, if the deceased has no next of kin, but did have money or assets, the case will be referred to the people who arranges and pays for the person’s funeral.