Each summer people throughout the United States prepare to spend time traveling, with most preferring to vacation during the month of July. As airlines work to find ways to entice more people to fly, the cost of international vacations has steadily declined over the past few years.  While most vacationers dream of relaxing and seeing unique sights, some encounter unforeseen emergencies. When that emergency becomes a tragedy, it is hard to know how to react. Being aware of what to do if a loved one passes away while out of the country is not the type of knowledge anyone truly wants to have, but it can help those closest to you should that nightmare become a reality.

Contact the Nearest Embassy

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you do not have to go through things alone.  Always seek help that is available, and, in this situation, your best source of help is the nearest embassy or consulate in the country where the death occurred. While the federal government is not able to help financially, they can reach out to the local authorities on your behalf. This can be especially useful if you are dealing with a language barrier or time constraints that make the hard task of making multiple telephone calls even more complicated than they would normally be.

Have the Death Documented

Always insist that the death be officially documented in the country where it occurred. The local authorities should be able to issue a death certificate that can later be translated into English.  Having documentation that the death occurred is necessary in order to receive discounted emergency travel, collect life insurance premiums that are needed to help with burials, or process a travel insurance claim. Remember, the information provided to the authorities (name, date of birth, etc.) need to be correct to avoid any future problems, so take the time to double check that the details you have are accurate before providing them to the authorities.

Decide on Burial

Depending on where your loved one was visiting at the time of the passing, you may not have much time to make a decision regarding burial. You will need to determine whether you want your loved one’s body returned to the United States or buried where it is. In some cases, you may have the option to cremate the remains and transport them, but your options may be limited based upon the country or cost of these services. Talk to your family members and work together to decide what is best after reviewing any existing estate plan that your loved one left behind.

Get Help

If things are overwhelming and you are not sure where to turn, contact a skilled probate attorney to discuss your options. Often an attorney can contact the correct authorities on your behalf and help to ensure that nothing is overlooked. The attorneys at MMZ Law understand how time sensitive these situations are, and we work quickly to find a resolution that respects the wishes of your loved ones. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at our Claremont, California location so that we can begin providing you with the legal advice you need.




341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.