What To Do If Someone Dies Abroad

What to do if Someone Dies Abroad

Sometimes life throws unfortunate loss at us at the most unthinkable times. It’s difficult enough to plan arrangements and deal with legal matters when a loved one passes away here in the United States, but if a vacation or extended stay overseas ends in their passing it can make the ordeal even harder to manage. Knowing what to do if someone dies abroad is probably not something many people consider. After all, most travelers are prepared and don’t anticipate health problems, accidents or natural disasters while abroad. Dying abroad is often times due to an unfortunate accident or set of circumstances and coping with the aftermath can be stressful, especially when death happens overseas.

What to Do if Someone Dies Abroad

Typically, when a U.S. citizen dies abroad, they have loved ones, friends and family back home that are in contact with them if they don’t have traveling companions while on their journey. In the event that a U.S. citizen has died abroad, the U.S. Consul’s first steps will be to contact friends and family with the first notification of death. They will notify next of kin and make arrangements for the return of the remains. They will issue a Consular Report of Death Abroad, the legal document with all details of the deceased individual’s passing based on the local government’s findings and issued death certificate after the person has died. The Bureau of Consular Affairs will assist any known family or friends remaining in the States in getting the remains of the deceased back to the states. Transfer of remains is based on local government and customs regulations, and is not the responsibility of the U.S. Consular office to fund. The Consular Affairs representative is simply an advocate for U.S. citizens and their families; they will answer questions regarding how to obtain the remains of the deceased. In the event that the deceased individual was living abroad, the consular agent will also assist in securing estate inventory.

How Do I Obtain a Loved One’s Remains When Someone Dies Abroad?

Once family members or friends have been contacted via the U.S. Consular Office, the next step is obtaining their remains from the country they passed away in. An important fact to remember is that in life and in death, U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the local government when traveling abroad. Once the death certificate has been issued and the Consular Office has issued a Consular Report of Death Abroad, there are several more documents you will need to have the remains brought back to the United States.  These may include a Consular Mortuary Certificate, a Transit Permit, a Foreign Funeral Affidavit and arrangements for quarantine if necessary. The cost to ship remains back to the U.S. will vary from airline to airline but generally, it will range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. It is important to take the appropriate steps in order to make the process as smooth as possible.

Steps Travelers Can Take to be Better Prepared in the Event of Untimely Death Abroad

No one wants to consider the potential of passing away while traveling abroad. There are a few things travelers can do to help alleviate some of the stress of the bereavement process to be prepared in the event of untimely death abroad. Travel insurance can help assist family with the cost of shipping remains or hospital costs. Registering your itinerary with the state department, along with emergency contacts is a fairly convenient step. You may also want to  keep extra copies of travel documents as well as health information  and personal wishes readily available in the event of a health emergency or untimely death abroad.


While we understand considering the death of a family member or loved one is never a pleasant topic, we hope in the event that you are experiencing the loss of a loved one abroad this information has been helpful. If you are dealing with an unfortunate loss at this time, the VitalChek family sends our very sincere condolences.

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