Senior Next of Kin Vs. Estate Executor

When making funeral arrangements, it’s very difficult for funeral directors to be taking direction from multiple parties. It’s very important to gauge and understand our position with whom we can and cannot take direction from. Below we have listed our obligations as the nominated funeral directors, making the arrangements for you and or your loved one.

A funeral director must only take their direction from a Deceased Person’s most Senior Next of Kin or where applicable, the Executor of the Deceased’s Estate.

Next of Kin: The dictionary defines a ‘Next of Kin’ as one’s closest living relative or relatives.

Generally speaking, the lineage of one’s most Senior Next of Kin is as follows:

Spouse or DeFacto Partner (This includes Marriage, Civil Unions and two adult individuals whom share residence and or relationship. This includes same-sex partners). Then;
Immediate Descendants (Children) This applies when a deceased persons’ descendants are over the age of 18 years. Then;
Parents (Also, when applicable, Step-Parents) Then;
Siblings (Generally speaking, Senior kinship does not lay with the eldest sibling, rather all siblings). Where siblings have previously deceased, Senior Kinship then lays with their descendants. When there are siblings still living, and one or others whom have deceased then Senior Kinship then rests with the living siblings and also the descendants of the deceased siblings. Then;

In in rare cases when a deceased person does not list a Senior Next of Kin and the State Coroner is investigating the cause of death, The Coroner will then search for or appoint a Senior Next of Kin. Where a Senior Next of Kin is not found or appointed, The Coroner will then arrange for a ‘Disposition of Destitute Deceased Person’. This will include a private burial or cremation service to be carried out at the cost of the State Government. A Government Contracted Funeral Home will be sought from the regions locality and they will be charged with the form of disposition.

In the event that a person is recently deceased within a hospital facility or residential property and a Doctor has or will write a Medical Cause of Death Certificate and has no one appointed as the Senior Next of Kin or Executor of Estate, it is then the obligation of the medical facility in question to arrange or organise the Funeral Service.

The role of a Deceased’s most Senior Next of Kin is only applicable when the deceased does not have a will and or has not appointed an executor to their estate. When a will has been produced and an executor of an estate has been appointed, the role of Senior Next of Kin is rendered moot when arranging a funeral (unless in New South Wales, where an executor of an estate has no legal grounding to make direction regarding Organ Donations or Post-Mortensen Examinations under part 5 of the Human Tissue ACT 1983 (NSW)).

If the deceased person in question possesses a funeral bond and or insurance but does not list the Senior Next of Kin or the Executor of the Estate as the beneficiary for the policy, it is the obligation of the person nominated to ensure the pay out amount is properly secured and utilised only for the purpose of the Funeral Arrangements. Even if you are listed as the sole beneficiary to the funeral policy, you do not automatically resume the role as Senior Next of Kin and are not obligated to make funeral arrangements. It is the responsibility of the beneficiary of any funeral policy to ensure that the policy is to be utilised for Funeral Costs only and forwarded to the Funeral Home carrying out the Funeral Arrangements. Where a policy is used to pay for Funeral Costs and there is an excess of funds, it is your obligation to forward the balance to the Deceased’s estate where applicable, otherwise to the most Senior Next of Kin.

It is not the position or obligation of the Funeral Home to decide or make assumptions on behalf of one or other Next of Kin.

Any disputes between Senior Kinship is not a concern to the appointed Funeral Home. You are encouraged to resolute your disputes between yourselves. If this fails, you are then encouraged to seek free mediation services, or furthermore legal assistance.

The role of the Funeral Director is to provide unwavering support in your time of need and ensure that the Deceased’s wishes and your wishes are carried out to their full extent.

We would like to encourage you to take some time to meet with us to pre-arrange your final wishes. Whilst we can offer no legal assistance or assistance in preparation of your Will, we do have access to a range of professional services with whom our business recommends that we can share with you.


Please note that this information is intended as a guide only and professional legal advice should be obtained for clarification where needed.