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What to Do If a Relative Dies Abroad

Updated: Nov 14, 2022


There’s never an appropriate time to be faced with the loss of a loved one or a relative, and it is even more challenging when they die abroad. Not only are you faced with the grief of losing a loved one, but also have to plan a funeral alongside the uncertainties of being in a foreign country and the extra expenses that might come with the funeral arrangements.

Depending on the location and the circumstances surrounding the death of your loved one, these are the immediate steps to plan a funeral for a relative that died abroad:

If You’re Abroad Together

The first step to take upon the death of a relative, when you are abroad together is to contact the nearest Embassy, Consulate, or High Commission. Any location outside your home country is a different turf; however, reporting the death to your country’s representatives immediately eases the funeral process.

For instance, if you are a UK/USA citizen, you will be required to visit the British/ US Embassy or the Bureau of Consular Affairs to register the death of your loved one in order to proceed with other funeral processes.

If you are on an organized tour abroad, inform the organizers or management of your hotel. They will advise on how to get started on funeral arrangements for the deceased.

If They’re Abroad Alone

Naturally, if you are at home in the UK or USA, the UK Consulate/ US Bureau of Consular Affairs is obligated to inform you about the death of a relative abroad, provided you are listed as the next of kin. In some cases, you might be contacted by the police department of the state or country in which your relative died.

Here, you are obligated to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for immediate steps in the funeral arrangement and how to register the death. You must also decide if there is a need to travel to the country in question for further funeral arrangements.

The Deceased’s Passport Details Are Most Crucial at This Stage
The Deceased’s Passport Details Are Most Crucial at This Stage

Regardless of your location, you must register a relative’s death in both the country where they died and their home country as part of the funeral process. This is so because the disposition of your relative’s remains is subject to both the local (i.e., foreign country) laws and the home country laws.

Required Documents in the UK and USA

When registering the death of a relative that passed on abroad, you must provide:

  • Identification details such as the Full name of the deceased and the Date of Birth

  • The Passport number

  • When and where the Passport was issued

  • Details of the next-of-kin (if you’re not the next-of-kin or with the person at the time of death)

When traveling, repatriation insurance is often one important factor left out of plans. It’s hard for most people to think of what might go wrong on a trip, more so to plan a funeral altogether. However, like any form of insurance policy, a travel/ repatriation policy is vital.

What Does the Policy Cover?

Repatriation insurance refers to a travel coverage policy that ensures that the remains of a traveler are conveyed to the appropriate place for further funeral processes. Having a travel/ repatriation policy in place subsidizes funeral arrangements by covering embalming expenses, an appropriate container of transportation, and shipping costs through direct routes.

It is essential to note that most travel insurance companies offer repatriation coverage, and when needed, the representative in charge of the travel must contact the insurance company before kick-starting the funeral arrangements.

The policy may also bear the expenses of someone to return with the remains and a 24-hour emergency team to keep the family informed and help through necessary collection processes. This depends on the service provider.

The insurance policy varies from location to location and is subject to price variations in transportation and local regulations. Most travel policies also cover emergency medical insurance, emergency medical transport, and gear insurance.

What Doesn’t the Policy Cover?

The policy is under no obligation to cover actual funeral costs or cremation expenses. It also relegates the funeral costs on containment items such as coffins or urns for cremated remains to the parties involved.

The policy also does not extend to your home country. What the policy does is move the body or remains of the deceased from a foreign country to the home country so that the bereaved can plan a funeral or a final sendoff for their loved one. Any further funeral arrangements, funeral processes, and funeral costs are managed by the relatives of the deceased. Other exclusions of repatriation may include:

  • Death through pre-existing/ known medical conditions

  • Death through suicide or anything illegal

  • Death from alcohol or drugs

How to Make Funeral Arrangements

The Body of the Deceased Can Be Repatriated in a Coffin
The Body of the Deceased Can Be Repatriated in a Coffin

With the death registration and the necessary documents acquired, further funeral processes such as funeral costs and transportation of the remains home should be considered. Make sure to double-check whether the deceased had a funeral insurance policy in place, before making any funeral arrangements.

Bringing the Body Home

To bring the body of the deceased home, you must go through the following steps:

  • You must obtain the English translation of the death certificate if dealing with English-speaking citizens such as UK/USA citizens. The death certificate is mostly issued after the death is registered as mentioned above.

  • Alongside the death certificate, the documents required include:

  1. The passport of the deceased or ID card.

  2. Certificate of embalming

  3. Coffin Box Maker certificate

  4. Contact details of the person collecting the body at the airport if necessary

  • Seek permission to transport the body. Sudden deaths are usually investigated and a postmortem examination is usually required before the death certificate is issued. Hence, it is important to notify the coroner in the country and at home as well as other appropriate quarters before transporting the body.

  • Submit a copy of the death certificate to the registered office in the location where funeral arrangements will be put to work i.e., where the funeral or burial will take place.

Bringing the Ashes Home

The Deceased Can Be Cremated Abroad and the Ashes Repatriated in an Urn
The Deceased Can Be Cremated Abroad and the Ashes Repatriated in an Urn

Per the deceased’s last wishes, the bereaved wishes, or circumstances of death, cremation can be carried out abroad and the ashes transported back home, the following steps should be taken to transport the cremated remains of a relative back home:

  • Get the relevant documents. For cremated ashes, the documents needed include:

  1. The death certificate and translation into the native language

  2. The Passport of the deceased as proof of identification

  3. Certificate of embalming and Freedom from Infection Certificate

  4. Customs Declaration Form

  • Get permission i.e., permission from the coroner and notification to the home country’s coroner.

  • Make arrangements for transportation to the home country and from the airport or landing port depending on the transportation unit

Funeral Cost

Amidst all funeral arrangements, the funeral cost is an integral part that should be thoroughly considered. Repatriation is one part of the funeral cost that can be very expensive. It is, therefore, crucial to discuss details before making any arrangements for transportation home.

The cost of transporting the remains of a deceased in a coffin or an urn varies from country to country. The funeral costs may include embassy fees and related paperwork, the cost of a shipping container as well as the fees of the receiving funeral home.

If transporting the remains of the deceased in a coffin, the cost will be based on the weight of the shipment and the distance. This fee ranges from $1000 to $3000 in the USA, depending on the funeral home. In the UK, repatriating a body costs between about £1,800 and £17,000.

When transporting cremated remains to nations like the US, transport is done via Postal services and the cost of this funeral arrangement ranges from $300 to $1000.

Losing a loved one in a foreign land is undoubtedly one of the most distressing calls of nature. However, having access to the right information eases some of the funeral processes and helps the bereaved to plan a funeral that’s befitting of the deceased.

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