What to do when someone dies abroad

Dealing with someone’s death can be a challenging and distressing task, especially in a foreign country. Language problems and dealing with strangers are just some of the complications that may arise. The British authorities will be able to help you both in the UK and overseas.

If a close relative or friend dies when you’re in the UK

If the British Consulate in that country has been notified, they will ask the police in the UK to notify the next of kin. If you are informed of the death by anyone else, you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth office on 020 7008 1500.

The Consular office in London will stay in touch with the family and the consulate abroad until the burial or cremation takes place overseas, or the deceased are transported back to the UK. They will also inform the British Council of your funeral wishes and take the details of the individuals responsible for paying any costs involved, such as bringing the body back to the UK.

If the person you’re with dies while you’re abroad

The British Council can provide you with practical advice regarding funeral arrangements and other formalities such as inquests. If the person died on a package holiday, the tour operator will get in touch with the British Council for you.

Locate your nearest British Council

Registering a death overseas

You need to follow local registration procedures and obtain a death certificate. If possible, do this at your local British Council as you can buy a UK-style death certificate and the record will be sent to the General Register Office within 12 months. You can get a copy from the General Register Office or from the British Council in the country concerned. If the person who died was a serving member of the British armed forces, their commanding officer can also request the registration.

You will not be able to register a death with the British Consul in the following countries:

The Ascension Islands
Cayman Islands
Christmas Islands
Falkland Islands
Irish Republic
New Zealand
St. Helena
South Africa
Turks & Cacos Islands
Virgin Islands (UK)

The district coroner must be notified if the body is being brought back to England or Wales. Your coroner is chosen according to the area where the funeral will take place. The coroner will decide whether the body needs further investigation. For a cremation you will require a coroner’s Certificate for Cremation (form 6).

Documents needed for registering the death

For registering the death you will need the following information about yourself and the deceased:

Full name
Date of birth
Passport number
Location and date of passport issue
Details of the next of kin for the deceased (unless it’s you)

Transporting the body home (repatriation)

The British Council can put you in touch with the international funeral director to help you with bringing the deceased back to the UK. The body needs to be embalmed and placed in a zinc lined coffin before being transported from the country. The moving process might take some time, especially if a post-mortem is required.

Some documents you will require (The British Consul can be contacted for help):

A certified English translation of the foreign death certificate from the country in which the person died
Authorisation to remove the body from the country
A certificate of embalming

Funeral costs

If the funeral costs are covered by the deceased’s travel insurance policy, contact the insurance company as soon as possible. They can directly make arrangements with the funeral directors.

If the funeral costs are not covered by travel insurance, you will be expected to pay all of the expenses including hospital bills and repatriation of the body and possessions.

Making funeral arrangements in the UK

You will need to take the translated death certificate to the register office in the area where the funeral is to be held. The registrar will issue a ‘certificate of no liability to register’. This will enable the funeral director go ahead with the funeral. It is not required if the coroner issued a Certificate of Cremation (form 6) or an Order for Burial. A coroner’s certificate is needed for a cremation.

Making funeral arrangements abroad

If you choose to arrange the funeral abroad, the British Consul will be able to give advice on how to do so.

Deaths as a result of disasters abroad

If the death occurred in a disaster abroad, natural or otherwise, get in touch with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 1500. They will be able to assist with any information you may require.

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William De Morgan
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