The death of a loved one is obviously a difficult time and process for family and friends. If the decedent dies outside of the U.S., the family and friends have the additional burden of dealing with local law and requirements.
The legal and practical process varies by country. So while not comprehensive, below is a list of key practical and legal concerns and information.
- Notification of death to the local authorities.
- Obtaining a local death certificate (which can often take awhile).
- Engagement of a funeral home.
- Cremation vs. repatriation of body decision.
- Preparing for disposition of remains, including transport back to the U.S. Documentation is likely required both by the U.S. and the local jurisdiction (e.g., local transit permit and notarized Consular Mortuary Certificate required by U.S. Customs.).
- Consular Report of Death Abroad (CRDA).
- Countries can vary on whether embalming is allowed,or who can perform the procedure.
- Autopsy necessity and procedures.
- Travel insurance claims (including coverage for return of remains to the U.S.).
The local U.S. embassy or consulate can provide significant assistance. Items they can help will include:
- Notifying next-of-kin.
- Confirming death, identity and U.S. citizenship of decedent.
- Providing information regarding personal effects and disposition of remains.
- Guidance on forwarding of funds to cover costs.
- If required, serving as provisional conservator of the estate in the foreign country.
- Preparing documents for disposition of remains, and overseeing the process.
- Transmitting the CRDA after foreign death certificate is issued.
See 22 USC 4196; 22 CFR 72.1.
Source: The Final Journey: What Hapens When Your American Client Becomes Seriously Ill, Injured or Dies Outside the U.S., by M. Katharine Davidson