Call Us Contact Us
Call us on: Free phone 02920 404020


When a person dies abroad, the death can be even more distressing than usual. Those left behind are left to deal with both their grief and the confusion of dealing with an unfamiliar system.

Help is available to anyone who finds themselves in these unfortunate circumstances. We at Howells Solicitors have put together a brief guide to ensure that matters are dealt with in a way that can minimise distress as much as possible.

1. Who to inform when someone dies abroad

When somebody dies abroad, the best thing to do is contact the nearest British embassy, High Commission or Consulate. They will be able to give you advice on what you need to do according to the laws of the country you are in. It is also a good idea if you are on package holiday to inform your tour organiser. They may also be able to help you with arrangements.

2. How to get a death certificate abroad

All deaths must be registered in the country where the death occurs, and how this is done will depend on the country. Deaths must be registered in accordance with the relevant laws of that country. The British Consul should be able to help you with this. The local death certificate will be accepted in the UK, but you may need to get a certified translation if the document is not in English.

Wherever the death occurs, it is essential that you have as much information as possible about the person who has died. This will include their full name, date of birth, passport number and next of kin.

It is not necessary to register the death with the British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission. However, if you do register the death this will ensure that a permanent copy in English is always available from the General Register office in the UK.

In Commonwealth countries and British Overseas territories any death certificate issued by them will be sufficient for use in the UK.

3. What to do if you want to repatriate a body

Should you wish to return the deceased to their home country (known as repatriation) then you will need to use an international undertaker. These arrangements can only be made once a certified English translation of the foreign death certificate has been obtained. Authorisation to remove the body from the country and a certificate of embalming also need to be obtained in order to comply with worldwide airline trade association rules.

Repatriation can be extremely costly as multiple factors need to be considered. Coffins travel as international freight, and the cost of this will depend on body weight. Coffins must also be zinc-lined and hermetically sealed.

In addition to the above, a coroner in England and Wales may require an inquest to be held where the person has died a violent or unnatural death abroad. In some countries, there may be mandatory rules which mean a body cannot be repatriated, and if this is the case It may have to be cremated within a certain period after death.

4. How much does cremation cost abroad?

The international transfer of ashes is much less complicated. Ashes can be transported as air freight, by courier, or even as hand luggage with an accompanying person, provided the documentation is in order. The necessary documentation will usually include death, cremation and sealing certificates, however it is always best to check with the airline you plan to use before you travel.

The cost of cremation varies from country to country. It can be expensive in countries where cremation is not common practice.

5. How to organise a funeral abroad

If you opt for a local burial instead of repatriating your loved one’s remains, you will need to instruct a local funeral director. British Consulates abroad can provide a list of local and international funeral directors on request, and this may include an indication of costs. If an English speaking funeral director is not available, consular staff can help you communicate your wishes.

One of the most important things anyone travelling abroad can do is ensure they have Travel Insurance with an adequate level of cover, as many travel insurance policies will have a cap on what they will pay out. This is especially important for those who have very specific wishes or religious requirements.

Probate and Estate Administration with Howells Solicitors

When somebody close to you dies the paperwork and legalities involved can seem extremely overwhelming. Here at Howells Solicitors we provide an expert probate and estate administration service that allows us to manage the process for you, administering the estate whether or not a Will exists.

Our Probate service deals with what can be a complicated area of law, guiding you through the process and ensuring that it is as stress-free as possible. Find out more about our probate services here.

With effect from 15th February 2015 EU Regulations on Consumer Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) allow consumers who bought our services online to submit their complaint via an online complaint portal.

We are required under the regulations to provide our clients the following information:-
  1. Link to the ODR platform - please follow the following link for further information (
  2. Our contact email address in case of a complaint under the ODR regulation – Andrea Coombes