Attorney & Mediator
Attorney & Mediator

What happens if you die while on vacation in a foreign country?

vacation map

When we think of traveling abroad, we plan for the fun.  Our packing list includes the camera, sunscreen and the right clothes.  But, what happens if the unexpected occurs and a family member dies while on vacation?  It doesn’t happen often, but it can happen.  Whether due to a traffic accident or illness, Americans do die while on vacation in foreign countries.

First, the local authorities will need to identify the body for issuance of a death certificate.  This may be complicated by the language barriers.  While it may seem that everyone overseas speaks English, this might not be the case if you are in a remote or rural area.

Arrangements will need to be made for the transportation of the body home.  This can be very costly as the body will need to be embalmed and sealed in a casket prior to transport.  Cremation may be a very good option at this point as it will eliminate much of this cost and red-tape.  Whatever the family decides to do, it is the family’s responsibility to shoulder the cost of this transportation. If the family decides to have the body transported home, it may be a good idea to contact the local funeral home, which will be skilled in making these type of arrangements.

While the U.S. State Department through the local embassy or consulate will assist the family in finding navigating this procedure, it is not up to the State Department to shoulder the cost.

Upon issuance of the death certificate by the local jurisdiction, the Consular Office can issue a Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad.  This can be used by the next of kin and/or Estate representatives in the U.S. courts.

Since some of us travel solo, it is important to remember to carry identification on your person at all time when abroad.  In that way, if you are to become ill, or to die, the local authorities will be able to identify you and to notify the U.S. State Department, which will in turn notify your relatives.

While worrying about this issue should not put a damper on your plans, a little advance planning is always a good idea.  Remember to carry identification and to have a list of contacts with you including next of kin.