How to deal with death abroad

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dealing with death abroad

If a loved one dies abroad without repatriation insurance the repatriation of their remains can be very costly.

Travel and health insurance offer many benefits to the living, but what if the worst occurs and you or a loved one die abroad?

Transporting a body or ashes home from a foreign country can be an expensive process. When you’re planning for a holiday or move abroad the idea of dying there is probably far from your mind. It is, however, something you should consider when buying health or travel insurance.

According to the US State Department, on average around 6,000 Americans die abroad each year. Many are living abroad as expatriates but some are on holiday or business trips.

Cost and length of repatriation

The cost of repatriating a body and coffin to the US ranges between US$200 to US$2,000. If you have repatriation included in your insurance, costs and paperwork will largely be taken care of by the company.

The paperwork can be quite daunting. When a person dies abroad, even if they aren’t a citizen of that country, they are subject to the local laws regarding death. This results in rules that can vary wildly from your home country.

The time it takes to repatriate remains will vary depending on manner of death, location and where the remains are being transported to. If the death was natural the process will be quicker than an un-natural death.

How to transport a body home

If you are transporting the ashes of a relative they can often be carried on the plane as cabin baggage. You will need to check the individual airline policy to be sure.

For a body and coffin transportation policies vary between airlines. As a general rule the body must be at the airport around six hours before the scheduled flight departure and can only travel on wide-bodied aircraft. The airline should be contacted as soon as possible to make arrangements.

Where to get help with a death abroad

If the worst does occur and loved one dies abroad you can seek help from local embassies and consulates, especially in the cases where no relatives are in the country at the time of death. If the person doesn’t have a relative in the country a member of the Foreign Office will be sent to identify the body. They will also notify the next of kin and arrange for repatriation of the remains.

The deceased’s insurance company will deal with transportation costs and paperwork (providing they have repatriation insurance).

For more information on repatriation of UK citizens check the Which? consumer rights website. For a death of a US citizen abroad see the State Department website.