The cost of dying abroad

User Written by Cindy-Marie Leicester on January 10, 2016.

The cost of dying abroad

As expats, we often dream of home (as well as Marmite, Branston Pickle, pork pies…) and many of us probably still imagine ourselves being laid to rest in the land of our families and ancestors. Some of us may even have a family cemetery plot where we plan on being interred. But is it still a realistic expectation to be returned home for burial when repatriation costs from long-haul destinations such as Asia and South America can cost up to £20,,000?

Foreign office figures recorded 4,110 British deaths abroad in 2013-14, and over 6,000 per year in the two years prior to that (the reduction being due to changes in the way data is processed). 362 Britons died in Thailand alone in 2013-14 giving it the dubious honour of being the second most common place for Britons to die after Spain.

It appears that most relatives are reticent to relegate their loved ones to a pauper’s grave in a foreign land. According to Saga, 90% of those who die abroad are repatriated for a funeral back home in spite of the high cost, complexity and stress involved in repatriating mortal remains.

Of course there will always be those who take extreme measures to avoid the costs – like the German mother and daughter accused of attempting to smuggle their deceased husband/father on to a flight from Liverpool to Berlin with the help of a wheelchair and some dark sunglasses – but most people will go the official route, employing the services of a specialised company to help navigate their way through the bureaucratic process/minefield of repatriating mortal remains to their homeland.

If you are an expat living abroad, you can take steps to smooth the process for your loved ones should your funerary wish be to return home. First, you should make sure that you record your wishes are in writing so that your intention is obvious. So as not to leave the cost of repatriation down to the beneficiaries and executors of your will you should research the costs involved and make provision for them in your estate planning if appropriate.

Travel policies and private medical insurance policies often include a standard repatriation clause or offer this as an optional extra and it is certainly worth checking this when taking out a policy. An alternative approach is a pre-paid funeral plan. Although these plans are long-established in the United States, they are relatively new to the UK. While most are domestic, there are specialists out there offering international cover.