What to do if someone dies abroad

You must register a death with the local authorities in the country where the person died.

In many countries you can also register the death with the UK authorities.

These rules apply if you live in England and Wales. There are different processes in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Reporting the death

The Tell Us Once service lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go.

You can use Tell Us Once if the person who died:

  • normally lived in England, Scotland or Wales
  • was abroad temporarily (for example, on holiday or a business trip)

Contact a register office to use Tell Us Once. They will either:

  • complete the Tell Us Once service with you
  • give you a unique reference number so you can use the service yourself online or by phone

If you cannot use Tell Us Once, tell organisations about the death yourself.

Find out more about coping with a death abroad.

Bringing the body home

To bring the body home you must:

  • get a certified English translation of the death certificate
  • get permission to remove the body, issued by a coroner (or equivalent) in the country where the person died
  • tell a coroner in England if the death was violent or unnatural

Read information about the country where the person died to find out what you need to do.

Contact a register office

Once the body is home, take the death certificate to the register office in the area where the funeral is taking place.

As the death has already been registered abroad, the registrar will give you a ‘certificate of no liability to register’. Give this to the funeral director so the funeral can go ahead.

If you’re arranging the funeral yourself, give the certificate back to the registrar after the funeral’s taken place. You must do this within 96 hours of the funeral.

When a coroner will be involved

A coroner will usually hold an inquest in England or Wales if the cause of death is unknown or if it was sudden, violent or unnatural.

You need a certificate from the coroner (form ‘Cremation 6’) if the person is to be cremated.

Bringing ashes home

When leaving a country with human ashes you will normally need to show:

  • the death certificate
  • the certificate of cremation

Each country has its own rules about departing with human ashes and there may be additional requirements. Read information about the country where the person died to find out what you need to do. You’ll need to fill in a standard customs form when you arrive home.

Contact your airline to find out whether you can carry the ashes as hand luggage or as checked-in luggage. They may ask you to put the ashes in a non-metallic container so that they can be x-rayed.

You should not have the person cremated abroad if you want a coroner at home to conduct an inquest into their death.

  1. Step 1 Register the death

    1. Register the death within 5 days

    Check what to do if:

    To stop or change benefits payments you can tell the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about the death straight away.

  2. Step 2 Arrange the funeral

  3. Step 3 Tell government about the death

    The Tell Us Once service allows you to inform all the relevant government departments when someone dies.

    1. Use the Tell Us Once service to tell government
    2. If you cannot use Tell Us Once, tell government yourself

    You'll also need to tell banks, utility companies, and landlords or housing associations yourself.

  4. Step 4 Check if you can get bereavement benefits

  5. and Deal with your own benefits, pension and taxes

    Your tax, benefit claims and pension might change depending on your relationship with the person who died.

    1. Manage your tax, pensions and benefits if your spouse has died
    2. Check how benefits are affected if a child dies
  6. and Check if you need to apply to stay in the UK

    If your right to live in the UK depends on your relationship with someone who died you might need to apply for a new visa.

    Check the rules if:

    1. Contact UKVI to check the rules for other visas
  7. Step 5 Apply for probate and check if you need to pay Inheritance Tax

    You might need to apply for probate and pay Inheritance Tax before you can deal with the property, money and possessions (the ‘estate’) of the person who died.

    1. Check if you need to apply for probate
    1. Estimate the value of the estate to find out if you need to pay Inheritance Tax
    1. Find out how to report the value of the estate
    1. Pay Inheritance Tax if it’s due
    1. Apply for probate
  8. Step 6 Deal with the estate

    Pay any debts or taxes owed by the person who's died. You can then distribute the estate as set out in the will or the law.

    1. Deal with the estate
    1. Update property records