If a family member dies while overseas, either while living in another country or while on holiday, and you wish to bring them back to the UK, you will need to go through various stages in arranging this. We take a look at how to deal with this difficult situation.
Much of the administrative process will depend on the country where the death occurred, and you will need to speak to the authorities there to find out their requirements for releasing the body.
Who has the right to make decisions?
The deceased’s personal representative will normally be the one to decide how the process of bringing them home will be handled. If the deceased left a Will, this will be their executor, as named in the Will. If they did not make a Will, then it will generally be someone entitled to inherit their estate under the Rules of Intestacy and who will be the estate administrator.
A body cannot be ‘owned’, only claimed. This means that family members will ideally need to agree on what will happen. The person with the right to make arrangements is the executor or administrator, although it is possible that someone else could challenge this if they chose to. A complication can arise with the use of the term ‘next of kin’, which is sometimes used by medical authorities, who may give certain rights to the person who claims to be the next of kin.
The first steps after a death abroad
The British embassy in the country concerned should be notified as well as the local authorities. If the person was on holiday, the tour operator should be told as well as the travel insurance company.
The embassy will know the local procedure for dealing with a death and repatriation and will be able to advise you of the steps to be taken. They should be able to explain how to obtain a medical cause of death certificate and let you know how identification will be dealt with.
In some cases, it will be necessary for a family member to travel to the country to identify the deceased.
You will need to use a funeral director in the country where the death occurred to look after the deceased’s body and prepare them for removal to the UK. In some circumstances, they may be able to arrange the transportation as well.
If you need to deal with arranging transportation, you will first need to obtain a medical cause of death certificate or a death certificate issued in the country where the deceased died. The coroner will usually need to give their consent to the body leaving the country.
Any documents in another language should be officially translated into English.
If the deceased was on holiday, their travel insurance may cover the cost of repatriation in some circumstances. If not, it can be very expensive. A special metal-lined coffin is usually needed for the flight. A different coffin will need to be used if the deceased will ultimately be cremated.
As well as arranging for the flight, you will also need to arrange for a funeral director in the UK to transport the coffin to the place of rest. You should have a waybill number to identify the coffin which can be given to the funeral director so that they can collect it from the plane when it arrives.
The UK coroner will want to check over the documents provided by the overseas authorities and will make a decision as to whether any further investigations need to be made or an inquest held.
If no inquest is necessary, the funeral director will be able to obtain a certificate of no liability from the Registrar. They will then be able to take your instructions as to the funeral and arrange for this to take place.