Death in the U.S.
If you believe your traveling companion has died, it is always a good idea to call
911, or ask the management of the place where you are, to call emergency
personnel. An unexpected death will likely mean the involvement of a medical
examiner to investigate the cause of death. This may delay for several days any
arrangements for body disposition.
Once death has been pronounced, you will need to notify relatives, time of day is
not relevant. Never wait until morning unless there are special circumstances. The
calls, may provide needed support for you, as well. Make sure you provide an
accurate phone number where you can be reached.
Unless there is a reason to have services with the deceased in the area where death
occurred (where there are established friends, or connections), you may contact the
intended home town funeral director to have the body shipped back home.
If cremation is the method of disposition chosen, without any services prior to
cremation, you may locate an affordable company where you are.
Death Outside the U.S.
When a U.S. Citizen dies in a foreign country, making arrangements for disposition
can become very difficult and expensive. The State Department, makes several
1. Call the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate before calling the family. Word is
then sent from the overseas, directly to the next of kin with official notification of
the death and the options available, along with costs.
2. It is important that the name of a person to be contacted in the event of an
emergency is included in your passport.
3. Your preference for disposition should also be attached to your passport.
4. If needed, money should be wired to the State Department which will forward it
to the Embassy. There is a processing fee. This is encouraged since working with a
bank often takes longer. If not already predetermined, decisions for disposition must
be made immediately and the information relayed to the Embassy. This can be done
directly by the family or through the Citizens Emergency Center in the State
Department. The Overseas Citizens Services is available 24 hours a day. Keep in
mind, there are no U.S. Government funds appropriated for the return of a
deceased U.S. Citizen.
Foreign Body Disposition
The easiest, and least expensive option, however a few countries do not allow the
burial of foreigners. The U.S. Consulate will be able to tell you.
This option is available in most countries, although it may be prohibited in
predominantly Moslem or Catholic countries. Some countries have only one
crematory, causing greater delay and cost in returning remains.
There is an urgent need of body donors in many countries. The U.S. Consulate
should be able to assist with those type of arrangements.
Returning the body to the U.S.
Preparation and shipment are according to local laws, regulations, and customs.
Embalming is not widely practiced in most foreign countries. There are other
methods of preparation for shipment, but they will preclude viewing. (The body
may be wrapped in a chemically-saturated shroud.) Charges for these services are
high and vary widely from one location to another. After receipt of the necessary
funds, there may be a 3 to 10 day wait until actual shipment. If using a funeral
home, you will need to notify your funeral director in the U.S., who can assist with
Bereavement fares are available for both domestic and international flights. They are
often not, the least expensive seats. Check for the lowest available fares before
asking if there are bereavement seats available. Only certain classes of seats are
marked for the bereavement discount.
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people to have
open and frank
their EOL Plans.
We all have to do it,
so why not talk
You can't avoid it