Red herring

It’s time to clear up a misunderstanding. Some people think their next of kin can make legal decisions on their behalf – but the concept ‘next of kin’ is a red herring.

Next of kin usually means your husband, wife, or nearest blood relative, but the title can be given to anyone including your partner, relatives and even friends.

It’s true that a GP or Hospital will ask for your next of kin when you’re admitted. That’s because they want to notify your next of kin when there is a change in your condition. If you’re unconscious or lack capacity, the medical professionals will also attempt to seek the views of your next of kin to help them make a decision.

It’s important to note that your next of kin can only advise. They have no legal power to make decisions. They can’t override the wishes of the patient, and they can’t prevent the medical team from acting in the patient’s best interests.

If you want your next of kin to have the power to make decisions for you, and be able to manage your financial affairs during your lifetime, then you need to appoint them as your Attorney(s) under a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This simply means that an individual of your choosing has been appointed to make decisions on your behalf.

Why you need an LPA

As you probably know, we strongly recommend you set up Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) in case you lose the capacity to make your own decisions. There are two types:

  • Property and financial affairs
  • Health and welfare (such as moving to a care home, arranging medical treatments and healthcare)

Do not imagine that you don’t need a health & welfare LPA because your next of kin would have the right to make those decisions for you. Remember, the ‘next of kin’ relationship has no legal standing in the UK (except for parents/guardians of a child under 18).

What if you don’t set up an LPA in time…

If you lose the mental capacity to make your own decisions, and no Attorney(s) have been appointed, your nearest and dearest will have to apply to the Court of Protection to gain rights. The Court will then appoint a Deputy to make decisions on your behalf.

As with LPAs, there are two types of Deputy:

  • Property and financial affairs
  • Health and welfare

How to appoint an LPA

The process is relatively straightforward, we promise. Just get in touch and we can help, or you can do it yourself via the government website.

For more on this, please read about Next-of-kin on Wikipedia

This links to our recent article Power of Attorney Horror Stories

Lance Baron

Certified Financial Planner (CFP) based in East Sussex, UK. We support people in Southeast England with more than £500K to invest by building a financial plan that will help them live the life they want… until age 100