When a death has occurred, or a death is expected soon, you might be asked by a doctor, facility, or cremation provider, “Who is the ‘next of kin’?” Lumen Cremation has all of the information you need – and is always available to answer questions that come up along the way. As a locally-owned and operated cremation provider serving Greater Nashville and Middle Tennessee families, our cremation care team believes every family needs to be informed in order to make the best end-of-life decisions for themselves and their loved ones.

Who is Your Next of Kin?

Next of kin refers to the person or people who have the closest relationship with you, in the event you are hospitalized, or following death.

In the U.S.––and certain other countries––next of kin relationships are clearly established in the law.

Generally speaking, your surviving spouse is first in line as your next of kin. Next are your children, provided they are over the age of 18. Beyond that would be your parents, then your siblings.

That’s the order that would be followed by the hospital to make legal decisions for your medical care, as well as decisions after your death that are related to your bodily remains, unless you’ve created an advance directive to say otherwise.

You could also use an advance directive to name someone specific to be your healthcare proxy who isn’t necessarily family. However, it should clearly state that person also has the legal right to decide what to do with your remains in the event of your death, or they would only have influence over your medical care. Download a free Advance Care Directive available on our website to start the process for yourself.

How is Your Next of Kin Identified?

If you are conscious and able to make your own decisions, you can identify any person of your choice as your next of kin, even a close friend.

However, if you are unconscious due to a medical emergency, or after death, your next of kin is identified by the hospital and your team of healthcare providers. In that case, the hospital will do what it can to track down surviving relatives and identify your next of kin based on who they are able to find.

What are the Responsibilities of Your Next of Kin?

This can depend. If you are hospitalized, your next of kin may be kept informed of your health status.

Although your next of kin cannot make decisions on your behalf without your written consent when you can make those decisions yourself, they can still be kept in the loop and informed of your progress with your permission.

Upon death, your next of kin is informed so they can make funeral and burial arrangements and receive any medical documents related to your care. In some cases, your next of kin may be consulted on matters of organ and tissue donation.

If you do not have an advance directive with a named healthcare proxy, it could also fall on your next of kin to make any medical decisions about your care and treatment, including life support measures and what happens to your remains if you don’t survive.

Determining next of kin can be a highly emotional and difficult time if it’s left up to  the hospital and healthcare team. Your loved ones may not agree with who is given the power to make those decisions.

That’s why having an advance directive is so important, so that you can decide what happens when you’re incapacitated, you can decide how you want your remains handled in the event of your death, and ultimately––your loved ones won’t have to. Your wishes will be respected, both in life and in death.

If you have any questions, please contact us here at Lumen, and one of our dedicated staff members will follow up with you promptly. You can reach us by calling (615) 235-5074 or emailing [email protected].