What happens if someone dies away from home

It’s the time of year when everyone is thinking about holidays and exploring new places. We hate to put a dampener on anything, but every year over 5,000 people die abroad, and many more will die in the UK but away from home.

Dealing with such an unexpected death is traumatic, as you cope with the logistics as well as the emotional consequences. This can be overwhelming, but it’s essential to know what to do if the worst happens.

Before you go – SYDNI (so you don’t need it)

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of knowing where essential information is in case of emergency.  In any event, you should make sure your next of kin knows where your paperwork is.  Will, travel insurance, life insurance or any other important documents.

If you’re travelling with friends – be sure to have emergency phone numbers for each other, particularly if you are travelling with friends.  You may not be able to access their phone so swap details beforehand.  Likewise, make sure people at home know where you are staying and have the next of kin numbers of those travelling with you.

If the worst happens.

When Someone Dies Elsewhere in the UK

If your loved-one or companion dies when you are travelling in the UK

  1. Contact the authorities: Contact the local police or emergency services in the area where the death occurred. They will help arrange for a medical professional to confirm the death and issue a medical certificate. There may be a post mortem or an inquest. This won’t necessarily delay things as the coroner can issue a certificate so that the funeral arrangements can be made.
  2. Find support: There will be a lot of things to sort out, and this can be overwhelming. Try to have someone with you, if you can, to provide extra support.  Don’t try to do everything yourself.
  3. Register the Death: You must register the death within 5 days, ideally in the district where the death occurred.  It can be registered by a relative, or someone present at the death. Contact the nearest Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages they will guide you through the process and provide you with the necessary documents.
  4. Funeral Arrangements: You can either choose a funeral director where the death occurred or choose one local to where the person will be buried or cremated. If you would like the person to be transported back to their hometown, a funeral director can make all the necessary arrangements for you.

When Someone Dies Abroad

Someone dying abroad can be even more complicated, especially as there may be language barriers, and it might be more difficult to find personal support.  However, there is a process to go through

  1. Notify the local authorities: As soon as possible, contact the local authorities in the country where the death occurred. They will guide you through the legal requirements, including obtaining a death certificate and any necessary paperwork.
  2. British Consulate or Embassy: Get in touch with the nearest British Consulate or Embassy, who will be able to help you.  They can give advice in dealing with the local authorities, language barriers, and cultural differences.
  3. What about the holiday company?  If you are on a package holiday, the holiday company involved also needs to be informed.  They can provide you with some additional support and may be able to help you with arrangements.
  4. Repatriation or Local Funeral: There can be a local funeral, or you can repatriate the deceased back to the UK. This is entirely your decision and will depend on cost, cultural considerations and personal circumstances.  The British Consulate or Embassy will help you with the repatriation process if you want to bring them home. There is paperwork that you will need and they can help and advise you about the  necessary transportation arrangements.
  5. Insurance and Legal Matters: Check your travel insurance to make sure they cover the cost of repatriation or funeral expenses.

Losing a loved one is never easy, and when it happens while they are on holiday or away from home, it makes things even more difficult.  A sudden bereavement is always traumatic, as well as complicated logistics and arrangements.

We are always here to help and advice, 24 hours a day.  If the worst does happen while you are away, do get in touch with one of our branches and we will be able to support you.

We sincerely hope you never need to.

Safe travels.