What to do when someone dies abroad - a guide to repatriation

A five step guide

If your loved one dies outside of the UK there are certain practical steps that you need to take before repatriation can take place. We understand that repatriation can seem complicated so we’ve put together a five step guide to help you through.

If you have any questions during the repatriation process or are unsure of where to start, our repatriation team can provide advice and guidance.

Step 1 – Tell the relevant authorities

The process is a little different depending on whether you’re at home in the UK when your loved one dies abroad or if you’re with them.

If you are in the UK when your loved one dies abroad, you will be contacted by the UK police or British Consulate. You’ll need to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) if you are informed of the death by anyone else, e.g. a holiday tour operator.

If you and your loved one are together abroad when they die, the first thing you will need to do is tell the relevant authorities.

These are:

These authorities will be able to advise you on your next steps. If you have a holiday rep or you’ve booked through a tour operator, tell them about the death as soon as you can. They may be able to help you contact the right authorities.

Step 2 - Register the death in the country where they died

For the death certificate to be issued, the death must be registered in the country where your loved one died and this must be done in accordance with the local regulations. For advice on how to do this you can get in touch with the British Consul. After the death has been registered with the local authorities, it also needs to be registered with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

You will need to make sure you have your loved one’s personal information to hand before you are able to register the death.

Take the following with you:

  • their passport
  • your passport
  • details of their next of kin (if it’s not you)

Step 3 – Decide in which country the funeral should take place

You can decide to hold the funeral in the country where your loved one has died, or you can arrange for the funeral to take place back in the UK. If you want to bring your loved one home for the funeral then this process is called repatriation.

At this stage you might want to consider contacting an international funeral director or a repatriation specialist.

Before going ahead with any repatriation arrangements, you should check whether your loved one had travel insurance that included repatriation costs.

Step 4 - Documents needed for repatriation

Before you can bring your loved one’s body back to the UK there are certain documents that you will need.

Before your loved one’s body can be transported back to the UK, they will need to be embalmed in the country where they died. You’ll then be given certificate of embalming.

In addition to this, you will need the death certificate (with a certified English translation) and written permission to remove the body from the country of death.

All of these documents can be obtained with help from the British Consul.

Step 5 - What happens next?

When your loved one is brought back to the UK a few things may need to happen:

  • The death may be reported to the coroner to verify where, when and how the person died
  • The death certificate will need to be presented to the registry office closest to where the funeral will be taking place. They will then give you a certificate that allows the burial to take place
  • If you want your loved one to be cremated, you will need a Home Office cremation order. This is usually available at the crematorium.

Once all of the above certificates have been obtained, you can start to make the funeral arrangements.

If you would like any help or advice with repatriating a loved one, to or from anywhere in the world, we have a specialist Worldwide Repatriation Team that can provide support. Contact your local funeral home for more details.