Koh Samui, Thailand 20100715. Båttur til naturreservat. Palmer, strand, vakkert vann.
Foto: Berit Keilen / NTB scanpix

We often see in the media shocking stories of families who are dealing with the sudden death of a loved one that’s happened abroad. It all seems like such a complicated and challenging process. However, the process of dealing with death abroad really depends on certain circumstances.  We’ve put together this standard guide of the most important steps to follow in case a loved one dies abroad.

Who to contact first

Aside from contacting family, the most important communication is to the foreign country’s nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. These places can offer you help with what to do next and support when a loved one dies abroad.

If the death has been reported to the British Consulate, they will ask your local Police Force to contact you, if you are the deceased’s Nearest Surviving Relative or Next of Kin.

If you’re on a package holiday it’s also important to inform your holiday rep. They will also be able to arrange further help.

You can find a full list of British embassies here.

Register the death

The death must be registered in the country that it happened and as the procedures vary. The authorities mentioned above will be able to assist you. You can ask the local Embassy to record the death and they will in return notify the National Records Office of Scotland who will document the death.

Other documents needed to register a death abroad include; a photocopy of the photo page of the deceased’s passport or their full original birth certificate and written permission from the person’s next of kin.

There are some countries where you cannot register the death with British authorities. Some of these include;

  • The Ascension Islands
  • Australia
  • Bermuda
  • Canada
  • Cayman Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Irish Republic


Repatriation is the process of returning the deceased’s body home. This can seem like a complicated process that can take some time to arrange. To return a body home to Scotland you have to contact a local undertaker in the country that the death occurred, who will assist you to register the death with the relevant authority of that country. They will also liaise with an undertaker in Scotland to arrange the return of the body home.

To bring the deceased home you must have a waiver from the local British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. You will also need a copy of the death certificate translated into English. When back in Scotland you need to, supply those papers and an application to cremate or bury from your local council, to Healthcare Improvement Scotland who will then determine if the funeral can take place or if a Post Mortem is required first.

The cost of bringing a body back to Scotland depends on the country the death occurred, the repatriation company or the Travel Insurance Provider. Many factors are taken into account as well as body weight meaning the cost could run into thousands of pounds.

To lower this cost, many people chose to cremate their loved one in the country they died and return the ashes back home. You do not need a permit to bring cremated remains back to Scotland, however it is best to advise the airline you are using, that this is your intention as they may have a cost attached to it and they will also want a copy of the cremation certificate. The ashes can be carried in your hand luggage or put in the hold of the plane, the airline company will advise you of their policy.

Make a claim on your travel insurance

If you or your deceased loved one purchased travel insurance, then you could claim back some money. However, when purchasing travel insurance, it’s always important to read the small print. A lot of insurance companies are infamous for unclear wording and policies with lots of exclusions.

It’s advised that you contact the insurance company as soon as possible. They can organise a local firm to hire a funeral director for you.