What Happens if You Die Abroad?

It’s the last thing we want to think about when jetting off on a vacation, but ensuring you have the right plans in place – should something go wrong – is pretty important (and extremely worthwhile).
What Happens if You Die Abroad?

With the end of the year fast approaching, you might be planning an overseas holiday. Maybe you’re heading off alone and leaving a partner at home. Or maybe you’re heading off with your partner and leaving kids, pets, or some of your most cherished possessions behind.

Regardless of where you’re going and who (or what) you’re saying goodbye to upon your departure, it’s important to ensure you have the right measures in place should something go wrong.

What happens if I – or a loved one – dies whilst abroad?

When a person dies, their death is registered in the country they died in. That means that an Australian who dies in China will have their death registered in China, and not in Australia. Local authorities are responsible for determining the process of dealing with the person’s death in their country, including the legal aspects of death, and what to do with the person’s remains. Unfortunately, this can sometimes mean that the family of the deceased has to work within that country’s local laws and regulations, even if their religious beliefs don’t align.

How do local authorities (from the overseas country) deal with the death?

There are a few ways local law enforcement can deal with the death of an overseas traveller, and it’s important to note that every country is different.

  • The death might need to be investigated by local law enforcement. This might include conducting an autopsy, regardless of religious beliefs or instructions in the person’s Will.
  • If an investigation is required, anyone who was travelling with the deceased will be questioned and might not be allowed to leave the country until the investigation is complete.
  • It’s possible that local authorities will decide how to deal with the remains of the deceased without consulting the family. Depending on which country the person has died in, there might be laws that dictate that only cremations or only burials are allowed. This can be an incredibly hard process for the family back home who feel as though they have no say when it comes to the remains of their loved ones. If the remains can be released to the family and brought back home to Australia, the family will need to pay a bill to release the them… and then the challenge of actually bringing the remains back to Australia can be a whole other ball game.

To put things simply? It’s not easy. Working with overseas export regulations and laws – and quarantine regulations in Australia – is a tough feat.

What should I do in preparation for travelling overseas?

It’s important to get your affairs in order before travelling overseas. This makes things easier for your family if they do have to deal with the death of their loved one, and also provides you with a little more control over how things might be dealt with.

  1. Update your most recent will and testament. Make sure your next of kin has a copy or know where you've stored it.
  2. Appoint someone as Power of Attorney.
  3. Make sure your travel insurance covers death for all destinations, activities, your health conditions, and includes the repatriation of your remains (although this last part might not be possible, depending on where the death occurs). If you die, the insurer will help your family with logistics and costs.

Wrap up

We all know that death is the last thing on our mind when planning an exciting trip away. But it shouldn’t be, and it’s important to keep it front-of-mind when planning your next vacation so that your family (and you) can have as much control over the process as possible, should things go wrong. That way, once you step on that plan, you can really relax and have the holiday you deserve.

If you’re jetting off soon and haven’t had the chance to write a Will, you can do so online in as little as 15 minutes. Our online wills are legally valid, court approved, and easy to complete.

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