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Deaths Abroad

The general principle if someone dies in another country is that the death should be registered in that country and local regulations adhered to. The costs associated with a death occurring abroad can be very high and will vary from country to country. If possible you should immediately check whether a valid travel insurance policy is in place and, if so, make immediate contact with the provider. It is likely that they will provide substantial help with the arrangements. Although there are no requirements to inform the British Authorities, it is highly recommended that you do so because they will also offer you considerable assistance. If you are at home when the death occurs you should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office - 020 7008 1500, lines open 24 hours. They will inform the British Consulate abroad and liaise with you until the funeral has taken place or until the body has been returned to the UK. If you are abroad when the death occurs then you should contact the British Embassy, the High Commission or the British Consulate. They, the local police or your tour operator will give you advice on how to register the death. You will need the following details: The full name of the deceased Their date of birth Their passport number Details of their next of kin Details of any infectious diseases the deceased was suffering from Once you have a foreign death certificate you can, if you wish, register the death with the Consulate. You will receive a UK-style registration document. The death will be recorded at the General Register Office in the UK and you can obtain further copies there if you wish. You should note that this document has no legal standing and is relatively expensive to obtain. You cannot register a death in countries where the certificates are in English (Ascension Islands, Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Christmas Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Irish Republic, Nevis, New Zealand, St. Helena, South Africa, Turks & Caicos Islands, Virgin Islands (UK)).

Repatriating a body

You will need to obtain authorisation from the country where the death occurred and you will need a certified English translation copy of the death certificate, if it is not from one of the countries mentioned above. The body will need to be embalmed and you will need a certificate showing this. The Consulate can help you find a funeral director and to obtain the relevant documents. The cost of transport and a zinc-lined coffin can be high. It is possible that the costs will be covered by travel insurance. In this case you may find that the insurance company will also help with the arrangements. You must inform the coroner of your intention to return the body. If the body is to be cremated the coroner will issue a Certificate for Cremation. You will also need to visit the Register Office with the certified translation of the death certificate and obtain a Certificate of No Liability to Register. You can give this or the Certificate for Cremation to a funeral director and then start planning the funeral.

Death whilst living abroad with assets in the UK

Care needs to be taken when a person who is living abroad dies and leaves assets in the UK. In such circumstances the deceased’s estate will usually be dealt with in the country they were living in under the local laws and regulations. However it could still be necessary for a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration to be applied for in the UK as well. The circumstances when this will be necessary will depend on the assets that are held in the UK and their value. For example, if the deceased simply held a bank account with a balance of less than £5,000 then the UK bank will probably accept a death certificate and a copy of the will as sufficient evidence to release the funds. Similarly, an application may not be needed for a jointly held asset as this will pass to the surviving holder.

With UK shares however a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration will always be required regardless of the size of the holding. It is recommended that the assistance of a solicitor is used under such circumstances. The solicitor is likely to need information on the following:

  • ·         The domicile of the deceased
  • ·         Details of the will of the deceased
  • ·         If there is no will then details of potential beneficiaries
  • ·         Details of the deceased's assets and liabilities at the date of death
  • ·         Details of any overseas Grant of Probate or similar

 

There may be Inheritance Tax to pay in the UK depending on the estate value and other circumstances of the deceased. However, depending on the tax laws of the country in which the deceased lived there may be a double taxation treaty which prevents tax being paid twice. The solicitor will be able to make the application for probate, which once granted will allow UK based assets to be transferred or sold.

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