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What to do if someone dies abroad

If someone dies away from home, local rules where the death took place may be different. However, there is plenty of information available to help with practical arrangements and hopefully reduce additional stress. 

On this page:

Who can help?

If the person who died was a British citizen, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office   (FCO). It will help you contact the British embassy, consulate or high commission nearest to where the death occurred.

The FCO publishes two detailed leaflets that might help if someone dies abroad, which you can download below:

  • Death overseas (PDF) describes how the FCO can help when someone dies overseas, and what UK authorities can do if someone died in suspicious circumstances.
  • Guide for bereaved families (PDF) includes more detailed information about the role of the coroner in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (and the procurator fiscal in Scotland), post mortems, police investigations, and who to tell about the death.

If the person who died had travel insurance , it’s worth contacting the claims helpline to find out if there’s anything they can do.

If the person who died was from Northern Ireland

If the person had a British passport, you should contact the British embassy, consulate or high commission.

If the person who died abroad had an Irish passport, the Irish embassy or consulate   will be able to help with registering the death and telling local authorities.

The nidirect website   has additional advice on what documents you’ll need for registration and bringing the body home for burial or cremation.

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Registering the death

The death must be registered in the country where the person died. Please ask your local embassy, consulate or high commission what information it will need to do this.  

Local documents are usually issued in the local language. You’ll need to get an approved translator to translate these into English before they’re legally recognised in the UK. The FCO or local consulate will have a list of people it recommends.

If the person who died was a British citizen, you can also ask about consular death registration. This is when the FCO registers the death at both the local consulate and general register office for England and Wales  , Scotland   or Northern Ireland  .

Consular registration isn’t as detailed as a normal death certificate. It’s also more expensive (see below). You don’t have to get this done. You’ll still be able to tell organisations about a death using an approved translation of a foreign certificate, but some people might like to have a local record of family history made.

To register an overseas death in the UK, you’ll need to send:

  • the original local death certificate (not a certificate issued by a doctor), plus a translation
  • a photocopy of the photo page of the passport of the person who died
  • their original full UK birth, naturalisation or registration certificate (if you can’t provide their passport)
  • written permission from the person’s next of kin or the executor of their estate (if you’re not next of kin or the executor)

Include the name and contact details of the translator you used. The cost is £105 for consular registration, plus £65 for every copy of the death certificate.

Be aware that not all overseas death certificates show a medical cause of death, and neither does the consular death registration certificate. This is something the coroner (or procurator fiscal in Scotland) will need to know when the body arrives (if you’re bringing it home). If the person died from their illness it’s unlikely there will be a post mortem, but ask a local funeral director at home about how things usually work in your area.

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Repatriation and travel insurance

Bringing a relative or friend home from another country is called repatriation and this is often covered by travel insurance policies. Depending on the terms and conditions of the policy, families may be able to choose between:

  • repatriation
  • local burial where the death occurred
  • cremation and repatriation of the urn containing the cremated remains

In an emergency, call the number on your policy document as soon as possible to explain what has happened. This will be answered by the assistance company. It will check you’re covered and find a repatriation specialist to arrange the repatriation or, if you prefer, to arrange the burial or cremation abroad.

If you’d rather have the burial or cremation abroad there may be some limits to what’s possible, depending on your policy. Please also bear in mind that if a decision is taken to have a cremation abroad, there cannot be any further investigation into the cause of death at home.

If there’s no travel insurance, ask your local embassy or consulate for advice. Consulates and embassies cannot pay burial, cremation or repatriation costs.

Planning the funeral

International repatriation from one country to another involves local officials and paperwork both where the person died, and at the final destination. You’ll need to wait for the person’s body to arrive home before finalising the funeral plans, in case flights are delayed or officials open an investigation into the cause of death. Your local funeral director can advise you about the regulations that apply in your area.

Read more about organising a funeral.

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Repatriation within the UK

For England, Wales and Northern Ireland, permission is needed to move the person who died from one area to another within the UK. For Scotland, permission is only needed if there’s an investigation into the cause of death.

A funeral director can apply to the coroner or procurator fiscal for this consent, and arrange any additional documents. At the destination, your funeral director will show all the documents to the coroner or procurator fiscal in that area. They will decide if further inquiries into the cause of death are needed and when the funeral can go ahead.

If you’re not using a funeral director, there are several repatriation companies that can transport the body within the UK and take care of any paperwork – search online for ‘repatriation UK’. You’ll need to pay for this, and costs will depend on the distance travelled and how much preparation or paperwork is required.

Funeral benefits and payments

If you receive certain benefits, and the funeral is in a European country, you might be entitled to financial help with the costs of the funeral (known as a Funeral Payment). The rules are complicated and will depend on your personal circumstances. Contact your local Citizens Advice   for help. You can also read more about paying for a funeral.

This information was provided by Dying Matters and Rowland Brothers International, with additional research in-house.

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External websites

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