Immediate Family

Updated on April 8, 2024
Article bySusmita Pathak
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Immediate Family Meaning

An immediate family is the one members of which are related by blood or share a bond through marriage, adoption, cohabitation, or civil partnership. They can be first-degree relatives, such as parents, siblings, spouse, children, or relatives by lineage like in-laws, grandparents, cousins, adopted and step-children, or civil and cohabiting partners.

The definition of immediate or close relatives varies with the law, type of organization, and nature of the investment. Based on this, an individual may be subject to many advantages and disadvantages. For instance, companies determine compensation or leaves in the event of sickness or death of such members. Likewise, legal and financial documents grant or prohibit certain rights and financial transactions.

Key Takeaways

  • Immediate family meaning refers to first-degree or close relations formed through birth, blood, marriage, adoption, civil partnership, or cohabitation.
  • Understanding the terms of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), updating financial paperwork, and preparing a will are necessary to protect close relatives and safeguard their interests.
  • Consideration of immediate family members under different laws and corporate policies determines whether they will be entitled to social and financial benefits.
  • Individuals with first-degree relatives get privileges depending on the situation, such as taking care of a sick family member, attending the funeral of someone close, or participating in the stock market.

Who Is Considered In Immediate Family?

The first-degree or close relative appears to be a common term, and many individuals believe they are familiar with it. However, because of its scope, it is hard to discern what is immediate family. The clauses in legal and financial documents and company policies may contain information about it that differs from what most people think to be true.

In general, it is a family defined by blood, including parents, siblings, and children. When connected through marriage and lineage, the concept extends to spouses, in-laws, adopted and step-children, grandparents, and grandchildren. Moreover, civil partners and cohabiting individuals also fall into first-degree relatives. It may even include uncles, aunts, and great-grandfathers.


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Understanding which definition is applicable in a particular situation makes it easier for individuals to understand how they would benefit. From deciding whether an employee will be allowed paid or unpaid vacation to their stock market participation, close relatives play a critical role in many financial decisions. Besides, many countries have specific laws defining which member would be considered a close relative for immigration purposes. In some cases, these laws limit the visitation of close relatives to permanent residents or restrict cross-border travel.

For example, the government of Canada has recently announced the limited exemption on its border restriction measures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, immediate or close family members of permanent Canadian residents, including spouses, dependent children, parents, common-law partners, or guardians, will be able to reunite after borders were shut down in March 2020.

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How Immediate Family Influences Financial Matters?

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#1 – Official Leaves

Whether an employee will get paid or unpaid leaves for taking care of a close one depends on how their company policy defines close relatives. Also, it is subject to laws of a jurisdiction. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) permits employees to take a significant number of leaves to take physical and psychological care of their first-degree relatives. Aside from parents, siblings, spouse, and children, these relatives may include in loco parentis.

On the other hand, the human resource departments of some companies may define the term differently. It helps them decide whether an employee is eligible for paid or unpaid leaves to take care of the concerned family member.

#2 – Will and Inheritance

The immediate family definition plays a crucial role in property distribution after the death of a relative. Even if the will specifies a non-first-degree relative as the executor of the finances, the first-degree relatives will still have access to financial deposits made by the deceased.

In the United States, a few states enforce no-contest provisions but keep the close relatives from the restrictions. In some states, close relatives are allowed a family allowance or homestead allowance.

#3 – Securities/Stock Investment

Rule 5130 of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) imposes limits on brokers and dealers when purchasing shares for their close relatives. For example, they cannot sell new issues like initial public offerings (IPOs) to any person it restricts from availing certain financial benefits. The restricted close relatives could be relatives by blood and lineage and others who are materially supporting or supported by brokers and dealers.

How To Protect Immediate Family?

On an individual level, the concept of close relatives is profoundly personal. Most people think of their parents, siblings, spouse, and children as first-degree relatives. Some people have grandparents, uncles, aunts, and other relatives, who are considerably closer to close relatives. There are many ways to protect them both legally and financially.

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Know the FMLA Provisions

Given the health conditions of the family members, employees need to go through the FMLA provisions. An employee must read their company policies thoroughly and know how they define close relatives. Employees can speak with management if they believe a member who requires special attention due to medical reasons is not addressed in the policy. In most cases, the clauses are negotiable if the person-in-concern has no one else to look after.

Keep Financial Documents Updated

It is essential to keep all the financial documents up-to-date, including bank deposits, property papers, and other investments having the clause of beneficiaries. Also, checking how a particular financial institution or investment instrument defines the concept will ensure the smooth transfer of assets.

Prepare A Will

While preparing a will, one must mention the rights to assets each family member would get. This way, they can safeguard the interests of every member before their soul rests in peace. A will also protects the family members financially, especially those who genuinely need resources. Again, inheritance laws vary with jurisdictions, and knowing them is important.

Immediate Family vs Extended Family

People often find it confusing to differentiate between an immediate and an extended family. In simpler words, the former is the smallest family unit with all members related by blood. And the latter extends beyond first-degree relatives, and its members have lineage connections.

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An immediate or close family includes parents, siblings, spouses, and children. When children get married, their spouses and children become immediate members, and the queue goes on. To understand this concept, let us have a central character, John, as an example. 

  • John is married to Mary, and they both have three children George, Maria, and Sam. 
  • When children grow up, George gets married to Lisa, and Maria gets married to Peter. 
  • George and Lisa have two children Sarah and Joe, while Lisa and Maria have a son Robert. Sam is still unmarried.

In the above example, John’s close relatives are Mary, George, Maria, and Sam. On the other hand, for his grandchildren Sarah, Joe, and Robert, their uncles, aunts, and their families fall under extended family. Unmarried Sam is still the immediate one for John and Mary. That is how it works.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is considered immediate family?

Immediate or close relatives are related by blood, including parents, siblings, spouses, and children. However, in some cases, members connected through birth (grandparents), marriage (in-laws and step-children), adoption, and civil partners and cohabitants are also considered close relatives.

What is a non-immediate family?

Non-immediate family members include grandparents, grandchildren, great-grandparents, great-grandchildren, cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, parents-in-law, siblings-in-law, step-children, adopted children, half-siblings, civil and cohabiting partners.

What is the difference between an immediate and extended family?

An immediate family starts with parents, their children, and children’s families. When these children connect with the families of their spouses or siblings, it converts into an extended family. Similarly, relations directly connected with the children’s parents, such as their parents (grandparents), siblings (uncles and aunts), cousins, will be considered part of an extended family.

This has been a guide to Immediate family and its meaning. Here we discuss who is considered and how immediate family influences financial matters along with how to protect them. You may find more about financing from the following articles –

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