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A widely used term which has no statutory definition in the UK. In practice, the general rule is to regard spouses and blood relatives as next-of-kin.
The Mental Health Act 1983 defines a list of certain people who can be treated as the “nearest relative” of a patient. A “nearest relative” has a number of important powers and functions, including the right to discharge a patient who has been formally detained in hospital, make an application for a person to be admitted for assessment, treatment or guardianship and also to object to applications for treatment or guardianship being made by a social worker. Only certain categories of people can become a “nearest relative”, the first being spouses, followed by unmarried heterosexual couples who have lived together for 6 months. A same-sex partner can only become a nearest relative after a period of 5 years.
A person who is “next in bloodline” to a particular person, who would be called upon for certain decisions.
The next-of-kin in the US is generally defined by state law. For example, the order of priority in Virginia (based on autopsy permission) is: spouse, then adult son or daughter, then either parent, then an adult brother or sister, then a guardian of the decedent at the time of death, then any other person authorised or under legal obligation to dispose of the body.
next-of-kinLaw & medicine A term “…with two meanings
1. nearest blood relations according to the law of consanguity and.
2. those entitled to take under statutory distribution of intestate's estates…(which) may include a relationship existing by marriage, and embrace persons, who …bear no relation of kinship at all'.