Return of Mortal Remains/ Repatriation of Remains explained:
The Return or Repatriation of Remains benefit included in all of our travel insurance plans is designed to cover the costs associated with returning your body to your home country if you were to pass away. Plus, some things you can do to make things easier if something were to happen to you when traveling abroad.
Why repatriation of remains travel insurance benefit is so important to you and your family
When an American dies overseas, the disposition of remains is subject to U.S. and local (foreign) law, U.S. and foreign customs requirements, and the foreign country facilities, which are often vastly different from those in the United States.
Imagine what would happen if you were to pass away overseas. Your family would have to deal with:
Obtaining an original death certificate and identification of your body
Clearing border patrol/customs
USA customs and ports
All in another language, different procedures, infrastructure and possibly red tape/corruption. Travel insurance covers this and more for your family.
Although none of us likes to think about it, the reality is that expats and tourists do die overseas away from their country of residence. Sometimes that can be in a country that is struggling with infrastructure, red tape and even corruption. REGARDLESS of development, every country has rules that will cause additional pain and stress to family members who are already grieving a loss.
Travelers die every year. For things they couldn’t prevent:
- Approximately 6,000 Americans die abroad every year, according to the State Department. Some were tourists, others business travelers, still others longtime expatriates.
- More than half of travelers’ deaths appear to be due to injuries from traffic accidents and other unforeseen events, according to a survey of international research published in the Journal of Travel Medicine.
Now, imagine that your family can’t speak the language, are trying to deal with someone within our embassy overseas, differing time zones, and can’t even plan a date for a funeral because they cannot predict when the body will arrive home. Let alone, trying to communicate with a local police department to figure out who to speak with regarding getting the right paperwork completed for the Consulate.
What happens when a traveler or tourist dies overseas:
Most countries will require an autopsy when a non-resident dies. Autopsies may not be performed during weekends, and could take up to 4-5 working days.
Following the autopsy, a local coroner or police investigator will determine the cause of death, usually within one day but in some countries, if overworked, reports could take much longer.
That foreign nation will then issue a death certificate.
Local Police or government officials will then issue a transit permit authorizing the release of remains for local burial or shipment overseas to a proven next-of-kin.
Funeral shipping for a body back to the United States can be expensive.
International shipping usually costs around $1,000 – $4,000USD and that does not include the airline shipping fee itself. This is simply the professional fee for a funeral home in the USA to collect the body, go there or have it prepared for shipping, complete all the necessary consular documentation and escort the body to the airline/back home.
If I don’t have insurance, how much will it cost?
Your total costs for getting the body back to the U.S. could amount to $5,000 – $8,000USD. depending on location. Even Mexico could cost your family $5,000. All of which could have been prevented for $20-40. (The fee for forwarding remains to another funeral home usually ranges from $1000.00 to $3000.00. The fee for receiving remains from another funeral home usually ranges from $800.00 to $2500.00.) – You will likely have to pay both of these fees, in addition to any other funeral home costs, if you do not have good international travel insurance.
If your family member is not up to scratch i the local language, it can be extremely daunting to have to suddenly deal with this task. Even filling out the forms could be a real challenge and may require locating and hiring a local attorney.
In case of death overseas, won’t the U.S. State Department or my embassy help?
The Department of State has no funds to assist in the return of remains or ashes of U.S. citizens who die abroad. The Bureau of Consular Affairs can assist the next-of-kin on how to transmit the necessary private funds to cover the costs overseas.
The U.S. Embassy will not (cannot) help arrange funeral services or shipping of the body for you. What they can do is help you locate a funeral home to handle arrangements for you. And you will be responsible to pay.
Consular Mortuary Certificate
The U.S. Embassy or Consular Agent will want to prepare a “Report of Death” after a local physician certifies the death, identifies the cause of the death, and issues the preliminary death record/report.
The U.S. Embassy will issue a ‘Consular Mortuary Certificate’, which allows the remains to be shipped/enter the United States (This facilitates U.S. Customs clearance). The certificate is in English and confirms essential information concerning the cause of death, as well as an affidavit from a local funeral director.
Additional documents may be required depending on the circumstances of the death. Your consular officer will ensure that all required documents accompany the remains to the United States.
In addition, local health authorities at the port of embarkation will issue a transit permit, which will accompany the remains.
If a family member does not accompany the remains, the airline carrier must also issue a bill of lading to cover the transport.
Proof of “next-of-kin” will also be required to claim the body or make arrangements through/by local authorities.
“Known Shippers” and the TSA
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires that funeral homes requesting to transport human remains via air be approved as “Known Shippers.” If you are planning on air-shipping the body (either from one country to another or from one city to another), ask the funeral home you’re working with if it’s an approved “Known Shipper.” If it isn’t, you will want to consider finding a funeral home that is. The customs house permit for entry to the United States is obtained by the airline carrier at the point of departure and is used to make sure quarantine and customs are cleared.
Lastly, the nearest embassy or consulate will also prepare a Consular Report of the Death of an American Abroad (CRDA). This is similar to a U.S. death certificate. Up to 20 copies of that report are provided to the next-of-kin or legal representative and may be used in U.S. courts to settle estate matters.
More on the CRDA:
The consul prepares a Report of Death based on the local death certificate; this report is then forwarded to the next of kin for use in estate and insurance matters. The consular “Report of Death of an American Citizen Abroad” (CRDA) provides the essential facts in English concerning the death of a U.S. citizen, disposition of remains, and custody of the personal effects of a deceased citizen. This form is generally used in legal proceedings in the United States in lieu of the foreign death certificate. The report of death is based on the foreign death certificate and cannot be completed until the foreign death certificate has been issued. This process can sometimes take from four to six weeks or longer after the date of the death, depending on how long it takes local authorities to complete the local form.
U.S. embassies and consulates work with local authorities and your insurance to see that this time is as short as possible. The CRDA is used for settling the deceased’s estate in the U.S. Without this correct paperwork, there is no life insurance payout and no probate. Understand that depending on the length of time you are overseas, U.S. domestic life insurance may not cover you or your benefactors. If you need international term-life insurance go to https://www.gninsurance.com/health/supplemental/term-life/.
U.S. State Department on the Death of U.S. Citizens Overseas:
A few other links and some advice on what you can do, below.
Death abroad and known shippers – http://www.nfda.org/resources/operations-management/shipping-remains/death-abroad
What you can do to make this process much easier on your family
1.) Get a good, affordable travel insurance policy that includes repatriation of remains / return of mortal remains every time you travel abroad. “Travel often?” Get an annual multi-trip plan that includes unlimited trips and repatriation of remains and is renewed once yearly. See: https://www.gninsurance.com/travel/annual/
Travel insurance itself should cost you about $1-$2 a day on average. Go to: https://www.gninsurance.com/travel/
2.) Next, get our free 40pg. Travel Safety guide at: https://www.gninsurance.com/resources/guides/travel-safety-overseas/
It has important travel advice and a checklist to make sure you and your loved ones have the right copies of documents they/you will need in case of a mishap. Forget those, and you could be creating a ton of work for loved ones before your body could be released from another country.
By carrying certain documents when abroad, and leaving photocopies of them with friends or family at home, you can smooth the handling of your remains and help survivors cope with the practicalities of your death.
These include your passport and other identification, emergency contacts, next of kin and more.
More on The Top Three Risks When You Travel Overseas at: www.dontgetstuckoverseas.com.
3.) Consider a signed notarized note stating what you want done with your remains, and a durable-power-of-attorney document. You can find sample forms on states’ websites or ask your attorney. Understand that if you live overseas (an an expatriate or own property overseas this will complicate matters, since probate is determined by where the decedent was residing – http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2011/april_may/estate_planning_withforeignproperty.html).
4.) For more, call us or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can find you the right policy or help you get the answers you are looking for.