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The loss of a loved one can sometimes occur whilst abroad. Here, we look at the legal issues that must be addressed in order to bring the body of the deceased back home.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard enough without the added pressure of having to organise the transport of the deceased’s body back home. There will be quite a few forms that have to be obtained whether repatriation is to the UK or from the UK to elsewhere. But what needs to be done?

Repatriation to the UK

Repatriation following a death is the process of returning the deceased’s body to the UK after he or she has died in a foreign country.

It will involve whatever legislature applies to the particular country where the death has occurred as well as the legal requirements applicable for a body to be brought back to the UK.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK and the British Consul in the area where the death has occurred will advise the bereaved on what needs to be done.

Dealing with a Death Abroad

If the death occurred whilst on a tour or package holiday, a representative of the company will more than likely contact the relevant authorities, including the British Consulate, for you. If you are travelling independently, you will need to contact the British Consulate yourself.

The British Consulate will advise on all the practical aspects of repatriation, as well as help you work with the local authorities. They will also be able to offer guidance on booking transportation home for both you and the body of the deceased.

The death will have to be registered in the country where your loved one died. A death certificate will be issued and may need to be translated into English.

You may also be able to register the death with the British Consulate in order to have a UK death certificate issued as well. The death will be recorded in the General Registry Office (GRO) Overseas Registration section. You will need the deceased’s full name, date of birth, passport information (including when and where it was issued and the passport number), and next of kin. It is only possible to do this in certain countries.

Returning Home

There are certain rules that must be adhered to in order to transport a body back to the UK. The deceased will have to be embalmed and then secured in a zinc-lined coffin. You will need to carry a certified English translation of your loved one’s death certificate, written authorisation from local authorities to remove the body and a certificate of embalming.

The cost of repatriation may be covered by your travel insurance; otherwise you will have to cover the cost yourself although this may be reimbursed from the deceased’s estate.

To arrange a funeral back in the UK, you will need to take the certified English translation of the death certificate to the register office in the area in which you hope to hold the funeral. Formal certificates will then be issued and the funeral will be able to proceed.

Repatriation Overseas

Recent economic migration from countries such as Poland has meant an increase in requests for repatriation for a funeral overseas. There are certain legal requirements that need to be fulfilled for a body to be moved from England or Wales to abroad, and also to Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

You will need to notify the coroner for the district in which the deceased is lying and complete a Removal Notice (form 104). The funeral director will usually deal with this form on your behalf. Often this authorisation has to be requested at least four days before the person is to be moved to give time for any enquiries.

Repatriating someone who has died from Scotland to elsewhere may not need the authority of the Procurator Fiscal – please check with your funeral director who can advise on your specific circumstances.

The Added Cost of Repatriation

Repatriation may mean additional costs, for example caskets and embalming for repatriation have to conform to high specifications as well as the cost of the flight itself and costs in the destination country. A less expensive alternative is to have the cremation in this country with repatriation of the ashes/cremated remains. The funeral director will be able to advise and help with the necessary documentation.

Cremated remains may be carried to some countries in hand luggage (with a death certificate and a certificate from the crematorium and sometimes a consular seal). But do check with the funeral director or consulate as each nation has its own regulations.

Many countries require signed documents from an appropriate doctor that the deceased was not suffering from any condition that might pose a public health risk.

Experts in Repatriation

Any funeral director can organise repatriation but some specialise in this type of work and have expertise in the field with detailed knowledge of the legal requirements for each country and a strong working relationship with particular airlines. At Bereavement Today we are pleased to recommend Rowland Brothers International who are specialists in worldwide repatriation with multilingual staff. They can be contacted on
Tel No: 0208 684 2324.

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