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Death Abroad

When tragedy strikes, nobody is ever prepared to deal with the consequences. At home you can rely on the knowledge of the system and the reassurance of the network of family and friends.
When abroad complications abound. You might wish to having the remains of a relative returned to your own home country, which requires the assistance of qualified funeral homes both in your home country and in the country where the death occurred.
You should contact the consulate or embassy of your country to find out how to proceed. Depending on how organised and compassionate your embassy or consulate is, you might receive some, all or none of the support described below:

  • help with registering the death, assistance with local knowledge, such as health regulations, if necessary, help identify the remains and assist with managing media enquiries on behalf of families, if at all necessary;
  • provide a list of local funeral directors, ensure the local funeral director is aware of regulations of your own home country and can advise on the costs of local burial, local cremation or transport of the remains back to your home country
  • provide a list of local lawyers if needed
  • help with translations if a company that understands your language is not available
  • advise on the costs of transporting any personal property back home and/or how to transfer any funds
  • help obtain quarantine clearance for the return of the remains

The length of time required for the repatriation of remains can vary greatly and is determined by a number of factors including the cause of death, location of death, etc. When death is the result of natural causes, remains can generally be more quickly repatriated.
When death is the result of a crime, a suicide or an accident, repatriation of remains can take much longer -up to several weeks in the worst case.

If the cause of death was a communicable disease such as; cholera or suspected cholera, diphtheria, infectious tuberculosis, plague, suspected smallpox, yellow fever, or suspected viral hemorrhagic fevers (Lassa, Marburg, Ebola, Congo-Crimean, or others not yet isolated or named), then the country receiving the remains might require that the remains must be cremated or placed in a hermetically sealed casket, and be accompanied by a death certificate stating the cause of death, translated into the language of your country. The local funeral home handling the remains following their importation will be subject to the regulations of the state and local health authorities for transportation inside the country.

You need to obtain the death certificate from the local authority. Make sure you have enough certified copies to be used for all necessary procedures (you will be asked for an original copy by  nearly all involved institutions, for example: to close bank accounts, to modify broker accounts, to review mortgage accounts etc.). To be on the safe side ask for at least thirty (30) original death certificates and, if the option is available in the country you are in, ask to have them in multiple languages.

In some countries, it is assumed that residents will donate their organs  upon their death, unless they have formally specified their opposition by completing a special form. The organ donor law also applies to foreign nationals resident for more than six months in these countries, but does not apply to diplomatic personnel and foreign military personnel. If you do not wish to donate your organs, you should enquire if this law is enforced in the country you are currently living in.

Remember that if the death involves the partner which holds the visa, that you and your family might not be allowed to stay in the country for much longer.

Be prepared for such a terrible event. Keep all your papers updated. Check the document Financial file or 'Family file' to verify if you have your personal administration up -to - date.

Most of all, make sure that ALL your family has appropriate insurance coverage in case of any tragic events. This means that you must evaluate funds needed to cover a death in the family. These include covering the expense of funeral and repatriation, the care of children long-term, a mortgage repayment plan, a pension etc.

Too often the central role of the accompanying spouse is taken for granted and not given a financial value. The result is that, in the events of the accompanying spouse's death, the working partner realises too late the financial burden he/she has to carry to provide care for the children.

Always be prepared and ensure that, as well as the working partner, also the non-working spouse is adequately covered by a life insurance policy.

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