What happens if you die overseas and how you can prepare
Death is something you probably don't want to think about. Especially when you're planning a trip overseas. However, dying overseas is always a possibility. Even for people who are fit and healthy. Sometimes, things just go wrong.
When an Australian dies overseas, their next of kin will probably experience more difficulties than if they'd died back home. Unfortunately, many Australians don't understand just how much more difficult it will be overseas, especially if they don't have travel insurance.
Read this page for information about:
- what will happen if you die overseas
- the impact on your next of kin if you die abroad
- what you should do before you travel
- travelling for euthanasia
- the death penalty
This page is for Australians planning a trip. It covers general information about death overseas. If someone has passed away, see our information on what to do when someone has died overseas.
What happens if you die overseas
Local authorities determine the process of dealing with a person's death in their country. This covers legal aspects, such as investigating the death, and logistical aspects of what to do with the remains.
This means your next of kin must work within that countries local laws and regulation for dealing with death. These can vary greatly, and may not be in line with your will or your religious beliefs.
- Local law enforcement may choose to investigate your death. They may conduct an autopsy, regardless of instructions in your will or religious beliefs.
- If there's an investigation, law enforcement may interview your travel companions. They may not be allowed to leave the country until the investigation is complete.
- Local authorities may decide how to deal with your remains without consulting your next of kin. They may have laws dictating only cremations or burials. The process could be very fast.
- Your next of kin or travel companion may have to pay a bill to release your remains. This could be to the authorities, or to a local funeral director.
- Your next of kin may have trouble returning your remains to Australia. They'll have to work with export regulations overseas, and quarantine regulations in Australia.
If you die on a cruise, there are other challenges and things to consider. See our general advice about going on a cruise.
Consular officials can provide limited guidance and support for your family. However, travel insurers have established processes in place to deal with a client's death. This helps reduce the impact on your loved ones during this difficult time.
Impact on your family if you die overseas
Loved ones face many challenges if you die overseas. It's much harder to organise a funeral in an unfamiliar country. They also have to navigate the local legal and administrative system.
They may also experience challenges bringing your remains home.
Then there's the financial impact. It can be very expensive for your next of kin, unless you have travel insurance.
What you should do before you travel
Before you go overseas, be prepared. This will help reduce the impact on your family during an already difficult time.
Get your affairs in order
- Update your last will and testament. Leave a copy with your next of kin or lawyer.
- Appoint someone as Power of Attorney.
Get travel insurance that covers death
It's your responsibility to ensure you have travel insurance that covers death. Get travel insurance as soon as you start planning your trip. If you die, your insurer can help your family with logistics and costs.
- Make sure your policy covers you for all destinations, activities and your health conditions.
- Read the fine print before you buy. You need to be clear about the circumstances that are and aren't covered.
- Ensure your coverage includes the repatriation of your remains, if this is your wish. This may not be possible, depending on how and where the death occurs.
If you're not properly covered and you die, your next of kin will be faced with all expenses related to your death.
Learn more about choosing travel insurance. Read the CHOICE travel insurance buying guide.
Going overseas for euthanasia (assisted suicide)
Euthanasia is illegal in many countries. If you're planning to go overseas to end your life through euthanasia, consider legal aspects of your plans. It can impact you and your next of kin.
In some countries, euthanasia is legal only in certain places and circumstances.
Research the law in your destination before you go. You may need to consult your destination's embassy or consulate in Australia.
Learn more about the Australian Government's position on the death penalty. See information on Australia's Strategy for Abolition of the Death Penalty (DFAT).
- Read our fact sheet about death overseas.
- Before you go, get travel insurance.
- See our advice for mature travellers and going on a cruise.
- Learn about reducing your risk of death from infectious diseases.
- You may be subject to the death penalty if you're arrested or jailed.
- Read the Consular Services Charter to understand how and when we can help.
- Read the travel insurance buying guide (CHOICE).
- See information on Australia's Strategy for Abolition of the Death Penalty (DFAT).
- Read about voluntary assisted dying (Victorian Department of Health and Human Services).
This brochure is designed to provide information to help you understand what consular staff in Australia and overseas can do to assist during this difficult time.