You and the Law – 15th March 2010

A question  of kinship

I have some half-brothers and sisters on my father’s side and some first cousins on my mother’s side.  I was also illegitimate.  Who would be my next of kin in a medical emergency, and, if I didn’t make a Will, who would have a claim on my estate?  GW

A person’s next of kin are his or her closest blood relatives.  Married people generally name their spouse as next of kin, although they are not blood relatives, and a spouse would be the person a hospital would contact in an emergency.  Spouses are also top of the list in entitlement as regards a deceased’s property. 

But assuming you aren’t married, your closest blood relatives (after any children or your parents or brothers and sisters of the ‘whole blood’) are your half-brothers and sisters.  If your parents are no longer alive they would also be the people with responsibility for you in an emergency.  The fact that you were born out of wedlock makes no difference as far as inheritance is concerned these days.

An extra dad

I have been married for three years, and my wife’s children from a previous marriage live with us.  Their father is still very much on the scene and they stay with him at weekends.  I would like to adopt them; what rights do I have, and how would I go about it?  NP

While the father is around it’s most unlikely that you will be able to adopt your stepchildren.  You would need their father’s consent, and while he’s involved with the children I very much doubt this would be forthcoming.  It would mean he had no further say in their future. 

A court wouldn’t look at an application to adopt in these circumstances, and I doubt the children would welcome such a move, however well you get on with them.  It’s important to remember that they also have a relationship with their father.

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