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The myths of being the next of kin

Your Life
Tuesday 26 February 2019
Who’s your next of kin? It’s a question often asked but what does it actually mean?

Well, in legal terms not very much.

Despite what some may think, in most circumstances your next of kin has no more say over what happens to you than your next door neighbour or milkman.

In fact, being someone’s nearest relative usually only takes on specific responsibilities or benefits in two circumstances.

One is the Mental Health Act 1983. This has a defined order of who should be informed when an individual has to be sectioned or taken into protective care*.

The other is the rules of intestacy*2. These detail who is entitled to inherit your estate if you die without a valid Will. 

And aside from that, in most cases, being someone’s next of kin holds little sway.

That’s why things can become tricky if you don’t arrange Lasting Powers of Attorney.  

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A Lasting Power of Attorney or LPA allows you to appoint someone (your attorney) to make decisions on your behalf should you no longer be able to. And it’s not just smart to do this when you’re getting on in life either. It’s something everyone should think about.

Common illnesses, such as cancer or heart disease, can leave you reliant on others. More than 800,000 people in the UK currently suffer from dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society predict this will rise to more than 1 million in the next six years*3.

But it’s also not only for those who are aware of a condition. In the UK, a person is admitted into hospital with a brain injury every 90 seconds*3. Finding yourself incapacitated can happen to anyone, at any time.

With an LPA in place, however, you can put someone you trust in charge of making the decisions you are no longer able to, or indeed want to.

What types of LPA are there?

There are two types of LPA; the Property and Financial Affairs LPA and the Health and Welfare LPA.

As you might expect, the Property and Financial Affairs LPA gives your chosen attorney(s) control over your property and finances.

They oversee things such as your bank accounts and investments, your bills, buying, selling or maintaining your property and giving gifts on your behalf.

Unlike the Health and Welfare LPA, you can appoint a property and financial affairs attorney(s) even without a medical need to do so.

Meanwhile, with a Health and Welfare LPA, your attorney(s) takes decisions on which medical treatment you do or don’t receive should you fall ill and whether you live at home or in care. They’ll also oversee your leisure activities, diet and clothing.

Without an LPA, no matter how close you are, these decisions would not be your next of kin’s to make.

How do I appoint attorneys/create an LPA?

Appointing attorneys/creating LPAs is an extremely important decision. That’s why we believe it’s crucial you have expert advice on hand when you decide to do it.

Although you can do it yourself by filling in an online form, there’s no protection against any errors you make if you decide to go it alone. Also, any ambiguous or misleading wording could cause confusion and may even make your document invalid.

With one of Key’s qualified estate planners, you’ll be guided through the process at your own pace, in plain English. Plus, there are no hidden fees and no pressure to proceed.

More than 60,000 people have chosen Key to help arrange their Wills and LPAs*4. Find out why; download our free guide or request a free call back here.
*1 https://www.mind.org.uk/
*2 https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/family/death-and-wills/who-can-inherit-if-there-is-no-will-the-rules-of-intestacy/
*3 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/600878/LP9-
*4 https://www.keyadvice.co.uk/wills-lpas/how-to-make-a-will-lpa
Page last updated: Wednesday 20 October 2021