When Someone Dies Overseas

Repatriation when a loved one dies overseas

Last updated: 29 November 2016

Around 1,000 Australians die overseas every year. Many people seek the help of an Australia-based funeral director specialising in repatriation, who can oversee the complicated administration involved in liaising with overseas authorities and bringing their loved one home.

Where to seek help

If your loved one died abroad, you may be informed of their death by the Australian embassy, high commission or consulate in that country. If you learn about their death through a traveling companion, tour operator, journalist or other means, you should contact Australia’s 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 (from anywhere in the world) or 1300 555 135 (at home). The Australian overseas mission can also assist in identifying your loved one’s body and will be able to advise you about what to do when someone dies.

Australia’s consular missions around the world provide advice and assistance to the relatives or next of kin when a loved one dies abroad. But there will be many things that you will have to arrange or oversee yourself. It can be a complicated process.

You will need to contact the Australian mission in the country where your loved one died. They will be able to help you understand the laws and administrative processes in that country, provide a list of local lawyers and advise how you can obtain translations if necessary.

The consul can also provide you with details of funeral directors in the country where your loved one died. It can also advise the funeral director on Australia’s quarantine regulations, helping them to obtain clearance to repatriate your loved one. They can advise you on the estimated costs involved in organising your loved one’s funeral or repatriation to Australia and how you can transfer the funds to do so.

Repatriating your loved one

Repatriating a loved one will require the services of a funeral home in the country where your loved one died and one at home, or the services of a repatriation specialist.

The repatriation costs involved in bringing a loved one home can be steep. Many travel health insurance policies cover the costs and administration involved in an overseas funeral, or the repatriation of Australians from abroad. If you think that your loved one may have taken out insurance before their trip, check the policy for repatriation coverage and contact the insurer on its 24-hour emergency number.

A funeral director who specialises in repatriation services can alleviate much of the burden when a loved one dies overseas. There are a number of repatriation experts located across Australia who will liaise with the necessary authorities at home and abroad, to bring your loved one home.

Funeral directors who specialise in international funeral shipping can also assist families arranging funerals in others states, or the overseas funeral of a loved one who died in Australia, but wished to be laid to rest abroad.

Cremations and ashes

You may wish to repatriate your loved one's body and hold their funeral in Australia, but in some countries this may not be possible and a burial may have to happen locally. This could be due to to local laws, custom, or expediency due to the climate. In countries where cremation is permitted, some families choose for their loved one to be cremated and arrange for their ashes to be flown home.

If you are bringing your loved one’s ashes home from abroad, you’ll need to check the nearest Australian Embassy’s guidelines about any local restrictions and also the airline’s own guidelines. Many airlines permit human ashes to be taken on board as hand luggage, but place restrictions on the type of funeral urn, for security reasons. You must also declare the cremated remains to Agriculture Biosecurity on arrival in Australia.