A person’s next of kin is their closest living blood relative, including spouses and adopted family members. The designation as next of kin is important in the context of intestate succession, as a decedent’s next of kin is prioritized in receiving inheritance from the decedent’s estate. A person’s next of kin must also be determined to notify family members of the person’s death, as is outlined in statutes such as this one. Further, a person’s next of kin must give directions on how the body will be disposed of or can authorize autopsies if necessary. In the context of hospitalizations, HIPAA Privacy Rules also authorize the notification of next of kin when a patient has been admitted, if that patient does or would consent to their notification. This is both to notify family members of the person’s status as a patient and to have a person who can consent to procedures on behalf of the hospitalized person.
[Last updated in July of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]