What to do when someone dies abroad: a step by step guide
Before travelling please ensure you have travel insurance.
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
When someone dies overseas, it is important that you get assistance from your local community, if possible, who can help to deal with an unfamiliar system far from home. However, you can also get help from the British authorities who can assist you with advice and support.
Please contact your insurance company immediately, who will also be able to provide valuable assistance
Below is a step by step guide for British Citizens who have died overseas:
Step 1: Register the death
If someone dies overseas, you must register the death with the local authorities in the country where the person died and obtain a Death Certificate. However, in the UK, it is required to register the death within 5 days (8 days in Scotland) – this includes weekends and bank holidays.
The local community and/or the British Consul should be able to advise you on where and how to do this. When registering the death in person, you should take information about yourself and the person who has died including:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- British Passport number
- Where and when the passport was issued
- Details of the next-of-kin, if you’re not their closest relative.
You’ll get a ‘certificate for a burial’ which is required before the funeral can take place. It is critical that the Death Certificate has a clearly stated cause of death.
In many countries you can also register the death with the UK authorities. You don’t have to do this, but if you do you can obtain a UK-style death certificate, and the record will be sent to the General Register Office within 12 months. You will also be able to get a copy of the Death Certificate later from the General Register Office or from the British Consul in the country concerned. More information on registering the death can be found here. https://www.gov.uk/register-a-death
Step 2 Bringing the body home
If you wish to bring the body back to the UK, British Consular staff in the local country should be able to help by putting you in touch with an international funeral director.
The body will need to be embalmed and placed in a zinc-lined coffin before it can be removed from the country. It may take some time to bring the body home, especially if a post-mortem examination is held.
Before you can bring the body home, you’ll need the following documents:
- a certified English translation of the foreign death certificate from the country in which the person died
- authorisation to remove the deceased’s body from the country
- a certificate of embalming
- get permission to remove the body, issued by a coroner (or equivalent) in the country where the person died
- tell a coroner in England if the death was violent or unnatural
Ask for advice from the local community organisations, the British consulate, embassy or high commission in the country where the person died.
Step 3: Arrange the funeral and funeral costs
The funeral can usually only take place after the death is registered.
Once the body is home, if a foreign Death Certificate has been obtained, take the death certificate to the register office in the area where the funeral is taking place. As the death has already been registered abroad, the registrar will give you a ‘certificate of no liability to register’ (White Certificate). Give this to the funeral director so the funeral can go ahead.
Review the travel insurance of the deceased as funeral costs may be covered and contact the insurance company as soon as possible. They’ll be able to assist you to make the necessary funeral arrangements. If the deceased’s funeral costs are not covered by insurance, you’ll be expected to pay all the costs including hospital bills and repatriation (bringing home) of the body and belongings.
If you’re arranging the funeral yourself, give the certificate back to the registrar after the funeral has taken place. You must do this within 96 hours of the funeral.
A coroner will usually hold an inquest in England or Wales if the cause of death is unknown or if it was sudden, violent or unnatural.
Step 4: Tell the UK government about the death
The Tell Us Once service allows you to inform all the relevant government departments when someone dies.
- Use the Tell Us Once service to tell all government organisations
- If Tell Us Once is not available in your area, you will need to tell relevant government organisations yourself
Before you use Tell Us Once, you will need details of the person who died. These can be found here
Tell Us Once is a service that lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. However, the registrar when you register the death will:
- let you know if the service is available in your area
- give you the phone number
- give you a unique reference number to use the Tell Us Once service online or by phone
You’ll also need to inform the banks, utility companies and landlords yourself.
Step 5: Bereavement benefits & dealing with your own benefits, pension and taxes
Depending on your relationship with the deceased, you might be eligible for financial help. Check if you can get:
- Bereavement Support Payment if your spouse or civil partner has died
- Guardian’s Allowance if you’re bringing up a child whose parents have died
Your tax, benefit claims and pension might change depending on your relationship with the person who died.
- Manage your tax, pensions and benefits if your spouse has died
- Check how benefits are affected if a child dies
Deal with their estate
You might have to deal with the will, money and property of the person who has died if you’re a close friend or relative, or the executor of the will.
After the death of a relative or friend abroad you are likely to have countless questions. What should I do now? How can I communicate with people in a foreign language? Who can I turn to for help? The British Foreign and Commonwealth office has two guidance documents:
More information can be found here. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coping-with-death-abroad
Right to live in the UK
You will need to check if you need to apply to stay in the UK. If your right to live in the UK depends on your relationship with someone who died, you might need to apply for a new visa. Check the rules if:
- you’re in the UK as the partner of a British Citizen or someone with indefinite leave to remain
- your partner who died served as a member of HM Forces
You will need to contact UK Visa and Immigration to check the rules for other visas
(Guide by the UK Gov, applicable on 25th May 2019 for British Citizens living in England and Wales. There are different processes for Scotland and Northern Ireland.) This document will review regular review to ensure information is valid.