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Emergency contacts v.s. next of kin when travelling

If I travel, who should my emergency contacts be?

When you're traveling, it's essential to have emergency contacts who can be reached in case of unforeseen circumstances which range from illness, injury, loss, theft or even death. These contacts should be individuals whom you trust and who are readily available to assist you in emergencies. Here are some suggestions for who you might consider as emergency contacts while traveling:

  1. Family Members: Your spouse, children, parents, or siblings are often the first choices for emergency contacts due to their close relationship with you.

  2. Close Friends: Choose friends whom you trust and who are likely to be available and responsive in case of an emergency. Make sure they have the necessary information and means to assist you.

  3. Travel Companions: If you're traveling with someone, such as a friend, partner, or colleague, they can also serve as an emergency contact.

  4. Local Contacts: Depending on where you're traveling, it may be beneficial to have local contacts as emergency contacts. This could include friends or acquaintances who live in the area or contacts provided by your accommodation or travel agency.

  5. Embassy or Consulate: If you're traveling internationally, consider registering with your country's embassy or consulate in the destination country. They can provide assistance in emergencies and can also serve as a point of contact for your loved ones back home.

Often overlooked: Make sure to provide your emergency contacts with relevant information such as your itinerary, contact details for accommodations, travel insurance information, and any other relevant details they may need in case of an emergency. Additionally, ensure that your emergency contacts are easily accessible, either through phone, email, or messaging apps.

What's the difference between next of kin and emergency contact?

The terms "next of kin" and "emergency contact" are often used interchangeably, but they actually serve different purposes and have different implications:

  1. Next of Kin:

    • Next of kin refers to your closest relatives, such as your spouse or civil partner, children, parents, or siblings.
    • In legal and medical contexts, next of kin may be contacted in case of emergencies or when decisions need to be made on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This could include decisions related to medical treatment, care arrangements, or handling your affairs in the event of your death.
    • Next of kin may have certain legal rights and responsibilities, depending on the jurisdiction and the specific situation.
  2. Emergency Contact:

    • An emergency contact is a person whom you designate to be contacted in case of an emergency.
    • Unlike next of kin, emergency contacts do not necessarily have to be relatives; they can be anyone you trust and who is readily available to assist you in emergencies.
    • Emergency contacts are typically contacted by authorities, medical personnel, or organizations (such as your workplace or school) in case of an emergency situation where you may be involved.
    • The role of an emergency contact is primarily to provide information, assistance, or support during an emergency, rather than having any legal or decision-making authority.

In summary, next of kin are your closest relatives who may be contacted in various legal and medical situations, whereas emergency contacts are individuals you designate to be contacted specifically in case of an emergency, regardless of their familial relationship to you. It's possible for someone to be both your next of kin and your emergency contact, but they serve distinct roles in different contexts.

Who is my next of kin under UK law?

In the UK, there isn't a specific legal definition of "next of kin" in the same way that there might be in other jurisdictions. However, generally speaking, your next of kin are typically considered to be your closest relatives, such as your spouse or civil partner, your children, your parents, or siblings. These are the people who would usually be contacted and involved in decisions about your welfare or medical treatment in case of an emergency or if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.

It's worth noting that the term "next of kin" doesn't have any legal authority in itself, and the specific individuals who have legal authority or responsibility in certain situations can vary depending on the circumstances and the relevant laws or regulations involved. For example, if you were to write a will, you could specify who you want to be your executor for the purposes of administering your estate. Similarly, in healthcare settings, there are legal frameworks that govern who has authority to make decisions on behalf of a person who is unable to make decisions for themselves. 

View a tool to share practical information with next of kin, executors and family.

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