What is a next of kin and does it afford you legal protection?
Whilst you may anticipate that your spouse, or another close relative, would have automatic access to your finances or medical records should the need arise, this simply is not the case. It is important to understand the legal rights and responsibilities that a next of kin has in respect of your affairs and how you can grant them the powers they might need.
Many services, particularly those involving healthcare, ask for details of your next of kin. You can name whoever you feel is most appropriate, however naming that person does not grant them any legal rights or responsibilities. Rather, organisations simply ask for details so that they know who you wish to be kept informed about your care and any decisions that the organisation needs to make on your behalf.
Naming someone as your next of kin in such circumstances does, therefore, have advantages. It ensures that person can liaise with the service provider and that they are kept up to date with your progress and treatment. In many circumstances, care providers will also take into account your next of kin’s views when they are making any decisions about your care. This could include important details about you which would otherwise be unknown to your care giver.
The advantages are, however, limited and it is not enough to presume that your spouse or children will be able to take over your affairs if needed without you having taken steps to put proper legal authority in place.
The only way to give your next of kin legal rights and empower them to deal with your affairs on your behalf is by appointing them under a lasting power of attorney.
You can make arrangements for this at any time so long as you have sufficient mental capacity. It is, therefore, advisable to plan this well in advance rather than leaving it until your health deteriorates.
Without valid health and welfare and property and financial affairs lasting powers of attorney in place no other person, including your next of kin, may make these decisions for you.
Contact Emma Morris, Solicitor in the Private Client team at Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors, Malton for help and advice on making your Will and lasting powers of attorney.