What Happens If You Die in Another Country?

Posted by: Erin Ward in Funeral Planning Resources | July 9

Each year, an estimated 6,000 Americans die overseas while traveling. It is a difficult situation to be in and one that many people are unprepared for. Losing a loved one suddenly can be both traumatic and stressful. Repatriation services is the process of transporting the body of the deceased home.


With repatriation services you need to act fast. In order to bring your loved one home there is a vast amount of paperwork that you need to complete and file quickly. Each country has different laws and requirements that affect the repatriation process.


Initially, the process begins when the local embassy in that country notifies the state department. From there, the next of kin will be notified and must decide how the remains will be cared for. The three options available are: having the remains embalmed and returned home for burial, having the remains cremated and returned home, or having the body buried locally abroad.


Once the family has decided how the remains should be cared for, a Next-of-Kin Affidavit and a signed Letter of Instruction must be filed. It is important to remember that there are costs associated with repatriation services that the family is responsible for covering. Unfortunately, the federal government does not offer grants or funds to assist with the cost. However, crowdfunding is a tactic that has been used successfully to assist with the costs when families have been unable to cover them.


An important thing to remember is that the process could be delayed if your loved one is the victim of a crime. In this circumstance, the local police will conduct an investigation and an autopsy which could delay the process. This can affect which repatriation options are available and limit the family’s choices.


Understanding Repatriation Service Options


Preparation and Return of Embalmed Remains


If a family chooses to have the remains embalmed and returned home, the work will be completed by a local funeral home in the country of death. This option carries the greatest costs to bring the remains home. It is also not recommended to hold a viewing when the body is returned as embalming in foreign countries is not always up to U.S. standards.


Cremation and Return of Remains


Cremation is usually less expensive than having the remains embalmed and returned home. In many cases, this is the choice families make to bring their loved one home. While cremation is available in most countries, it may be difficult if the country is predominately Catholic or Muslim. In these countries, cremation facilities may be few and far between and usually charge a higher rate.


Local Burial


This option is typically the lowest cost but the least popular among families. Burying a loved one in another country can be difficult decision but may be the most appropriate given the situation. If a family selects this option, the local embassy will coordinate with local funeral homes to give the family a selection of quotes. An employee from the local embassy will also be present at the burial to represent the family.

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