As borders continue to reopen and vaccinations increase, more people are comfortable returning to travel, including international travel for vacations, for school, family and for business. But given the headlines of the past 2 years and some of the very real experiences Americans have had if they become ill while traveling internationally, many American travelers want to know what will happen if they die overseas.
If you are a U.S. citizen traveling abroad, you are subject to the laws of the country you are in. If you die in another country, your death is handled under the laws of the country you died in. If you die overseas from natural causes, due to an accident, as the result of a crime, natural disaster or from an illness, the United States does not have jurisdiction and the death will be handled following the laws of the country you died in. Deaths in international waters on a cruise have special legal requirements. However, many countries have a cooperative relationship with the U.S. and will help the family or legal representative in the death of a U.S. citizen traveling abroad.
If an American citizen dies in a foreign country, the U.S. embassy or consulate and the United States Bureau of Consular Affairs will be notified. If the local police are involved, they will notify the U.S. embassy that an American citizen has died.
The embassy will attempt to contact your family in the United States.
• Death Certificate
Depending on the country you are in, the embassy may provide you with local sources for legal guidance, but the U.S. embassy does not provide legal or financial aid.
The embassy will prepare and send signed copies of the Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad to your family or legal representative. This report can be used to settle your estate in the United States.
The U.S. embassy, your local legal representative and your representative in the United States will coordinate the repatriation of your body and possessions if that is what your next of kin in the U.S. requests and if it is possible. In some countries, this is a smooth process, but in other countries, this could take weeks or even months.
Remember that it will likely be your family that will navigate all the logistical and bureaucratic issues if you die overseas. International travel insurance should be part of your estate plan to protect your family from unexpected costs and minimize their stress as much as possible. Travel insurance is available to cover nearly all your potential issues while traveling abroad. Travel insurance can be purchased to cover all health and medical issues when traveling internationally or on a cruise.
When purchasing international travel insurance make sure to carefully review your policy so you understand what is, and what is not, covered.
• Purchase insurance covering the countries you are visiting.
• Make sure the activities you are participating in are covered under your international travel insurance.
• Make sure your unique healthcare needs are included.
• Repatriation of your remains should be covered in your international travel insurance, and should include:
• Your particular health situation and what health issues are not covered.
Note: Healthcare and hospitalization costs due to Covid were a major concern and cost for many Americans who became ill while traveling abroad
• Cost to fly your body and possessions home
• Casket, embalming funeral director’s fees in your home and the United States
If you travel outside of the United States, international travel insurance should be part of your estate plan. Your insurance provider can be of great assistance to your family if they are trying to navigate foreign laws and customs.
When you travel outside of the U.S., be sure your family in the United States has a copy of your international travel insurance in case something happens to you while you are traveling abroad.
• Estate Planning for American Expats
To make sure you and your family are protected when traveling or living outside of the United States, contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group in Oak Brook, Illinois today at 630-864-5835.