7. Death abroad

You must register a death with the local authorities in the country where the person died. In many countries you will also have the option to register the death with the UK authorities. You may be able to use the Tell Us Once service to contact government organisations.

Find out more about coping with a death abroad.

There are different rules for bringing the person’s remains home, depending on whether you:

  • bring the body home for burial or cremation
  • have the person cremated abroad and bring their ashes home

These rules apply to England and Wales. There are different processes for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Bringing the body home

To bring the body home you need:

  • a certified English translation of the death certificate
  • permission to remove the body, issued by a coroner (or equivalent) in the country where the person died

Ask for advice from the British consulate, embassy or high commission in the country where the person died.

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.

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. Contact the country’s British consulate, embassy or high commission for advice. 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.

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