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Dealing with a death abroad

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Marcus Barker advises on what should be done if you have to deal with a death of a loved one overseas or while abroad.

The most essential step is to ensure the death is officially registered in the country where it occurred.  

In order to gain a death certificate it is essential to meet the local regulations of the country in which the person died, which may vary.

You should also register the death at the British Consul who will provide you with a UK death certificate, a copy of which will remain on permanent record in the UK.

It's important to provide as much information and documentation about yourself and the person who has died as possible. This should include: full name, date of birth, passport number, when and where the passport was issued, and the name of the next of kin of the person who has died.

Role of the British Consul

The British Consul will be your key source of help and information if the death occurs while you are also abroad with the deceased.

If the deceased was on a holiday organised by a tour operator, the company will be able to provide initial help and advice and put you in contact with the relevant people, including funeral directors where appropriate.

If you are the next of kin of a loved one who has died abroad while you remain in the UK, you will most likely first hear from the UK Police who will have been informed about the death by the British Consulate in the country where your loved one was on holiday.

If you hear from anyone else, including the tour operator, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should be contacted who will then act as the key information channel and ensure the British Consulate abroad and the family or next of kin in the UK are fully aware of the circumstances.

Consular staff can provide assistance and information on the tasks faced by the bereaved including:

  • keeping the next of kin informed and up to date with progress and proceedings;
  • providing information on costs of local burial or cremation or transportation of the body and personal belongings back to the UK;
  • providing a list of local and international funeral directors;
  • assisting where English speaking firms are not available;
  • helping in the transfer of funds from friends and relatives to pay any necessary costs;
  • helping to raise the appropriate concerns with officials where the death may be considered suspicious.

Repatriating the body

If the body is to be brought back to the UK then it will need preparation to make it suitable for travel.

The deceased will need to be embalmed and placed in a zinc-lined coffin before removal from a country can proceed.

It may take some time to get the body home again and if a post-mortem examination is required then this process may be delayed even longer.

In some countries post-mortems are carried out as a matter of course and do not require next of kin approval. A certified English translation of the death certificate, written authorisation to remove the deceased from the country and a certificate of embalming will all be required to repatriate to the UK.

The British Consular staff will continue to assist until burial or cremation abroad or successful repatriation of the body to the UK.

Once returned to the UK a certificate of 'no liability to register' will be needed from the registrar in the locality where the funeral is to take place so the local funeral director can proceed.

If you are wishing to have a cremation then a Cremation Order (or form E if there was a post-mortem) will be needed for the deceased before you can start to make plans.

A Certificate E or an Order for Burial also negates the requirement for a certificate of 'no liability to register' to be supplied to the chosen funeral director.

Movement of a body within the UK

If death occurs in the UK, movement within England and Wales is uninhibited.

However movement of a body to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, the Channel Islands or overseas requires the completion of a Form 104 which must be returned to the Coroner's Office in the UK as an official notification of intent to move a body outside of England and Wales.

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