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What to do when someone dies abroad

A guide to repatriation

Repatriation regulations can seem complicated, but our funeral directors can offer guidance, advice and support to anyone looking to arrange repatriation, regardless of your circumstances.

What is repatriation?

Repatriation refers to the process of transporting the body of a deceased person from one country to another. Generally, when someone dies they will be returned to their country of residency or citizenship. This can apply to people that pass away whilst abroad, or those who are currently in the UK and wish to be buried in another country.

If you wish to be buried abroad, or a member of your family has died abroad and you need to arrange repatriation, contact your local Co-op funeral director for further information on repatriation services.

If your loved one dies outside the UK there are certain steps that you need to take before repatriation can take place. Repatriation can seem complicated so we’ve put together a 5 step guide to help you through.

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.

Repatriation Costs

Repatriation services may incur extra charges in addition to standard funeral fees. Our worldwide repatriation team is available to support your family in bringing your loved one back home should they die abroad. It’s important to note that repatriation may be covered in travel insurance or life insurance policies. In this case, the family of the deceased may be paid a fixed sum after death which can help with the cost of transporting the body back to the UK.

It can be challenging to accurately advise on repatriation costs, as there are several variables that will impact the final figure. However, a broad cost guideline for repatriation is somewhere in the range of £2,000 to £4,000.

If a family member has passed away abroad and you would like further information or to discuss potential costs, please get in touch for guidance.

What happens if someone dies on a plane?

When someone dies during a flight, there will be specific protocols followed by the cabin crew, airport, and local authorities once the plane lands. This can vary from airline to airline, as well as short and long haul flights.

If the individual is unresponsive and presumed to have died (as cabin crew cannot officially call the time of death), the crew will normally secure and cover the body in a respectable manner. In the meantime, they will likely notify the airport and relevant authorities at the destination.

Once landed, it is common procedure to disembark all passengers aside from cabin crew and the next of kin or partner of the deceased. Medical staff and authorities will then enter the aircraft to declare the time of death and document details, prior to removing the body.

If the deceased has landed in their own country, families will need to arrange transport of the body to either the funeral directors or the coroner. Some funeral directors may incur additional charges to transport a body when travelling outside of their typical distance range.

If the deceased has landed abroad, families will need to follow the correct repatriation procedures should they wish for the funeral to take place in the UK.

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