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Repatriation of a Deceased to the UK from abroad
Detailed information about our 'Repatriation' services
In these days of global travel and multiculturalism, there are numerous reasons why, someone could possibly, die abroad.
There are some factors that apply to all situations of this nature and some that only affect specific circumstances and instances.
Different countries have different regulations, although International agreements have been established over the years to bring some order and parity to bear.

With all the normal scenarios we can imagine for a death abroad, there are some unusual occurrences too; criminal activity by the deceased or upon the deceased will invariably lead to an investigation. Sudden, unexpected, unexplained, violent and accidental deaths will have to be treated with a degree of suspicion and will be subject to Police investigation, Coroner or Medical Examiner procedures and followed by a post mortem examination or autopsy and an Inquest to establish the cause of death. If criminal proceedings follow for any reason, the deceased could be a primary 'part' of the evidence and access by prosecution and defence councils might be required – this could delay repatriation for a long period.

Fortunately, with the extent of world-travel, most situations have occurred in the past and systems to meet the needs of families and indeed all parties concerned, have been updated accordingly.

Though we may possibly think of unfortunate situations which could cause a death abroad, emigration may be the only reason involved and partner survivorship, the only circumstance.
The first question would be to ask who exactly, needs to be notified?

Once the circumstances have been established and no suspicious reasons found, the Last Will and Testament should be sought to establish the wishes of the deceased if any were made and then, to find out who is/are the people appointed or responsible for making the necessary funeral, Estate, repatriation and other legal, arrangements? Often, a pre-paid funeral plan has been purchased and this will illustrate the wishes of the deceased.

The next prudent action especially if the next-of-kin does not live locally and, if repatriation is planned, would be to notify the next-of-kin, family member, Executor or representative of the deceased in the receiving country, the United Kingdom.

Most 'foreign' countries have embassies or consulates representing their own patriots in the host countries and deaths are not uncommon - nor are the procedures and regulations that apply. If available, the appropriate embassy or consulate HAS to be informed.

Registration of the death is an important feature for obvious financial and practical reasons as well as social, welfare, electoral rights and other important administration purposes. Driving licences, passports, banking information are among the items that have to be dealt with and this will undoubtedly apply in both countries especially if dual or multi citizenship applies.
Most importantly and inescapable, are taxes.
You will probably also find that the rules governing Wills differ but apply in both countries so, conflict could be a factor.

Most of these matters require attention (or clearance) before repatriation arrangements can be put into place.
There are also logistical and practical factors that require attention too.

Transportation of the cargo, as the deceased will effectively become, will mostly be by air but road, rail and sea travel remain an option. Costs will vary so any pre-plan or record of expectancy could be of great importance especially as the majority of the costs involved will be required prior to the acceptance of the instructions and issue of the subsequent, contract.
Prudence would dictate that more than one option be examined and perhaps a 'quotation' obtained rather than an 'estimate' though this might be impractical or impossible due to the difficult nature of the situation.

Each country will have rules for the transportation. The 'container' (coffin or casket) will doubtless have to be sealed in an acceptable fashion. This could be a special transportation coffin or casket or a zinc liner that fits inside the coffin or casket.
The deceased will have to be embalmed and a declaration made regarding the contents of the container which will be subject to 'customs' rules and regulations of the exporting and importing countries.

Specialist repatriation companies have been established in most countries and are 'sold' to the public - understandably, as the processes involved appear and can be, quite complex. Funeral directors (undertakers), have traditionally performed this service in the past and lately, take one of two routes: they either, 'rise to the challenge' or pass the task on to a specialist company and with it, the additional cost plus, no doubt, some commission payment.

Exmouth & District Funeral Services along with their parent company, Exmouth & District Funeral Services, have sought to act in their total capacity wherever possible in the past.

The public always have a choice of course and the prudent advice would be to ask for an estimate, price guide or even, quotation before engaging any party (subject to the previous comments above). Attention should be focussed on ANY and ALL additional charges perhaps by the funeral company and the Customs Holding Company regarding the collection and transfer of the deceased to the intended last 'place of rest.'

Most international repatriations by air can easily be accommodated from the two popular London International Airports, Heathrow and Gatwick but an authorised. H.M. Revenue and Customs 'broker' will be necessary to deal with the importation/ Custom's Clearance; again, your funeral director can arrange this as a formality though timing can be important due to national holidays when more people are likely to travel abroad.

Insurance, as most of us are aware, is another large component of travel though mostly the more elderly will feel vulnerable? Knowing exactly what cover you are paying for before traveling is vitally important, especially if you are ill and not declaring your condition accurately? (Pride rules!)

Regarding the registration of the death: the death will need to be registered in the country of death and a Death Certificate/s (and/or a Certified Translation in English) obtained. Registering at the British Consulate is an advantage as the record will be recorded in the UK as a matter-of-course and can also be applicable in the country of death – not all British Consulates or Embassies permit or facilitate this.
The Death Certificate will be required by the Register Office in the UK, by appointment, in the locality where the funeral is to take place; a Certificate of 'No Liability to Register' will be issued by the Registrar.

Members of the British Armed Forces have special rules; this article is devoted to members of the public and not government officials though the general principles will be applicable.

The deceased WILL need to travel with his/her passport; a Certificate of Embalming; possibly a Certificate of Freedom from Fever or Infection; an Authorisation of Entitlement to Travel (of some description - other names apply); possibly a declaration regarding the contents of the cargo and IF, any of the documents are not written in English, an authorised translation of each.

If the death is due to a disaster situation, The British Foreign Office will give instructions to all the affected personnel on a personal basis either collectively or individually.

Transportation is only one part of the complex procedure of repatriation. Acceptance into the United Kingdom will involve H.M. Coroner and the Cause of Death might not be recognised or accepted in the UK.

A further two Inquests may also be necessary – the first Inquest is a formality but can be distressing?
It will be necessary to view the deceased to establish or confirm his or her identity.
Due to varying standards of embalming around the world, the time involved before and after preservation of the body and the time involved in effecting the 'travel arrangements,' the condition of the deceased may not be as good as we might like or expect. Preparedness and forewarning should be a factor prior to viewing and establishing the identity of the deceased.
Every effort will be made by the funeral director and hospital staff to minimise any adverse conditions or effects prior to viewing by a relative, Executor of family representative.

A further Inquest is unlikely but could be necessary dependent upon the circumstances surrounding the death and the actual recorded, 'cause of death.'
Another post mortem could also be ordered to help in the aforementioned circumstances.

All these factors are likely to affect the timing of the funeral.

Your funeral director will advise you on all these matters and subsequent arrangements can be made for the 'Memorial Service,' (if required) and the final disposal of the deceased.

Having a cremation abroad with a subsequent repatriation of Cremated Remains can be a practical and financial solution in numerous circumstances or situations – careful thought should be given to such possibilities, if possible, in advance of any occurrence or death abroad – perhaps the consideration of purchasing a pre-paid funeral plan might be prudent if one does not exist or is not in place prior to travel overseas or generally speaking?
This could be considered as a further form of insurance or action of, 'due-diligence?'

For further information or options relating to Cremation abroad or the transportation of Ashes/Cremated Remains or 'Cremains' as they are sometimes called, please see other articles here on our website.


  At Exmouth & District Funeral Services, we realise that this is an unusual and difficult time for you. As such, your contact with us is a personal and professional priority. Our primary goal is to be available to you and perform the professional and caring service needed, in order to reduce the burden to you and your family.  
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